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10 Ways Clinton Supporters Can Manage Their Post-Election Stress

By Nicole Levy | November 10, 2016 11:47am
 The crowd outside the Hillary Clinton election party at the Jacob Javits Center, watching their candidate lose the presidential race.
The crowd outside the Hillary Clinton election party at the Jacob Javits Center, watching their candidate lose the presidential race.
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Dnainfo/Maya Rajamani

The commute to work the morning after Election Day was a solemn one for New Yorkers, 79 percent of whom had voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

As Trump supporters on Staten Island, in southern Brooklyn and eastern Queens celebrated the Republican presidential candidate's surprise victory, the rest of the city grieved over Clinton's defeat.

"It feels like a punch to the gut," said psychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez, who teaches at Columbia University, of the physical symptoms of post-election grief. "Your stomach's a knot, you can't concentrate, you don't feel like going to work, but you can't eat, you can't sleep."

In the wake of an election that claimed significant emotional investment from volunteers and voters, "people are experiencing a very visceral reaction to what's happened," Hafeez said.

Rachel Annunziato, an associate professor of psychology at Fordham University, saw students cry and express anger at the election's outcome as they banded together on campus Wednesday.

"I think the concerns about core values being at stake here and who we are as a country —  that's certainly feeding into the reaction today," she said. "It's a lot more than 'Oh, my candidate lost.'"

A surge of calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, administered by the Mental Health Association of New York City, between 12 and 1 a.m. Wednesday supports her hypothesis.

"Typically we have about 450 calls around midnight," said Lisa Furst, assistant vice president of training and quality Improvement at MHA-NYC. "[Tuesday] night, we had almost 700 calls about people feeling very anxious."

Likely, the "acute stress disorder" plaguing some New Yorkers who stood with her will persist for a few weeks, Hafeez said. 

Then people will acclimate to the "new norm," she continued. "We'll watch the news and see that everyone is embracing it because you have to. We'll take comfort in mockery and comedy, and we'll deal with it."

In the meantime, we have some tips for Clinton supporters on how to manage their post-election feelings:

Use logic to process your feelings and get on with daily life

Tuesday night may have felt like the apocalypse to you, but life continues Wednesday.

"When you woke up this morning, the sun came up, everyone went to work," Hafeez reminded New Yorkers. "The world did not end, the sky did not fall — it's a reminder that things actually do go on."

New Yorkers who get on with their work and continue achieving small goals, rather avoiding reality, will ultimately feel better, said Dr. Shannon Bennett, a psychologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian.

Don't take the election results personally.

"If your person lost, it's not a reflection on you, but rather, it speaks to the political process that's been in place for 200 plus years," said Jonathan Alpert, a Manhattan psychotherapist.

Don't cancel your fun plans

"It's really important to connect with things you enjoy — places you enjoy being, activities you enjoy doing ... things that aren't the source of your anxiety," Furst said.

If you were set on getting Happy Hour drinks at the Rubin Museum with your friends this Friday, don't change your plans because you think you should be grieving.

► Keep in mind any pre-existing addictions

"If you're prone to drinking or smoking, you want to watch some of those behaviors," Hafeez said.

"It's okay to indulge in maybe a candy bar or a greasy breakfast — that's fine, get some turkey bacon — but that's it."

 Seek out and confide in like-minded friends

Instead of sharing your feelings on social media with strangers, or keeping them to yourself, consider sharing them in person with friends "who validate and support you, rather than potentially make you feel worse," Annunziato said.

Manhattan psychotherapist Jonathan agreed: "By being around people who share similar views, you'll be able to talk out your frustrations and work towards an acceptance of the outcome," he said.

► Disengage, for the time being, from unsettling stimuli

When an event you consider tragic strikes, It's easy to become obsessed with TV, radio and other news coverage. 

"Anxiety runs high when you're constantly exposing yourself to the trigger, which is in this case non-stop coverage," or antagonistic conversations about the event itself, Hafeez said.

You may feel your heart rate quicken and your palms get sweaty, "non-stop elevation [that] is not good for you," she said.

Hafeez recommends turning off your TV and going for a walk, shopping for groceries, or calling friends.

Do something for someone else

"If you're worried about a culture of fear and hate, then try to act with love and kindness" at home, work, or at a volunteer organization, advised Bennett.

"Engaging in activities that promote service can make us feel better as well as contribute to our communities."

► Remember the basics of stress management

Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising will all help you cope with symptoms like headaches, stomachaches and elevated blood pressure, Alpert said.

"Some people turn to yoga, some people turn to meditation — whatever has worked for you before you can certainly be applied here," Annunziato said.

In Furst's experience, "exercises that help you become aware of the five senses can be very helpful," she said. "You're taking yourself out of your head somewhat and putting yourself back into the realm of physicality and the body — a lot of people find that very stress relieving."  

Accept the past and keep your eyes trained optimistically on the future

"You want to focus on the positive, because what's happened happened," Hafeez said. "Nothing will change the outcome."

Only after disheartened voters have accepted the past can they take action in the future, and that process doesn't necessarily happen overnight, according to psychologist Tanya Bannister, the director of Cognitive Therapy for Women.

Acceptance calls for making decisions about your participation in democracy going forward.

You may resolve to become more active in the next election, as a mean of claiming greater ownership over the future, Annunziato suggested.

"I've heard a lot of people say things like that today, that this has been a spark to potentially do things differently now," she said.

Slate lists some productive outlets for your new sense of initiative here, and Jezebel has a roundup of activist organizations to which you might donate your money and/or time here

► If none of this helps, consider talking over your feelings with a counselor

"I certainly want to encourage people to reach out for help if they need it," said Furst, who recommended they call the city's new 24/7 mental health hotline NYC Well.