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COLUMN: Cure for post election stress disorder is to disconnect

December 29, 2017 Updated: December 29, 2017 at 4:25 am
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Some of my most interesting column ideas come from social media. I recently received this question and would like to share it with you.

From Facebook:

"Maybe you can talk about the cycle of frustration, hopelessness, and the ability (or inability) to get back at it. Just how to handle the overwhelming needs and the disappointment. How to be proactive without losing yourself. I'd love to hear your perspective on this issue."

I gave a short answer on Facebook, but the question haunted me. My questioner seemed unable to get past frustration. They described hopelessness - caused by our current political climate. And they could see others being affected in the same way. This is not about party. This is about people. And stress.

I realized too late, that I had looked at this question through a political lens. But this particular question called for a different perspective. A counseling perspective.

I remembered the outcry in counseling circles caused by Psychology Today last year when they published an article about Post Election Stress Disorder. This informal designation is similar to PTSD. At the time, I had some difficulty taking the article seriously. But this question made me go back and look at the article differently.

Go take a look:

If social media is any indicator, people regardless of party, are feeling anxiety, stress, and depression regarding our current political state in the United States. The symptoms are classic,

- feelings of impending doom

- fatigue

- panic/nervousness

- difficulty concentrating

- anger

- restlessness

- hopelessness or extreme sadness

- reminders of past trauma

It is strange to see politics as causing this kind of stress or even trauma, but I can see how it could happen. We are inundated with negative perspectives. The 24/7 news channels bring us non-stop negative news. It seems pretty easy to gain a warped, or unhappy perspective with constant stimuli that is polarized fighting all of the time.

But this unusually high stress is caused by more than the information coming at us. Many of the people feeling high stress related to our political climate or the election have suffered sexual harassment or sexual assault, anxiety disorders, and/or post traumatic stress disorder.

Let me put it simply. If the election is having unusually negative effects on you, you have brought your unresolved grief and pain into your politics. Your pain is from unhealed wounds. Politics is not the cause of the stress that you are feeling.

For you, politics is just a focal point for your pain. You must get healed and then lend yourself to political engagement.

So the way to create the society that you want ... is to take care of yourself.

If this is you, I have some suggestions for you. Certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety. These techniques include:

- eating a healthy diet

- limiting caffeine and alcohol

- getting enough sleep

- getting regular exercise

- meditating

- scheduling time for hobbies

- recognizing the factors that trigger your stress (and avoiding them)

If doing these don't bring some relief, you may need to shut yourself away from the 24/7 television news cycle for a week or two (or more). Stopping the flow of the negative can help you to feel better. Included in the flow of negatives is social media. You may need to take a short break to reorient yourself, to shorter times online or in front of the television.

And you may need to consider professional counseling to learn anger or stress management. Then face it. Some things can't be controlled. Our system is flawed, but we can change it. In fact, we change some of it every four years.

After you get healed, you may need to be different in your political focus. Give yourself back some kind of control. Get into a positive cause. Stop fighting and go build something constructive with some other people. Register people to vote. Assist a non-profit as they serve others. Be a precinct captain. Help solve some problems where you can see yourself make a difference.

God still helps those who help themselves.


Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Rachel is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.

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