I want to make this really clear.
Despite the title, this article is not about politics. Nor is it about telling you to “get over it, and move on”. Goodness, if someone had said that to me shortly after Brexit, I think I would have metaphorically punched them!
Rather, this article is about how to keep your mental health in check in the aftermath of the election result and beyond.
Regardless of how you voted, (or how you hoped all of your fellow Americans would vote), you may well have been feeling quite stressed, anxious, or even depressed in the hours and days since the result was announced.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that you are actually feeling worse, not better, with each day that goes by – which is actually really normal if you have been very focused with and consumed by the negativity in the aftermath of the election result. Let’s face it, it’s everywhere at the moment, online and offline – and there is a lot of negative stuff out there if we go looking for it.
So if you are feeling ‘out of sorts’, here’s how you can begin to restore some sanity and mental equilibrium again.
Sounds too simple doesn’t it?
But when we are stressed, anxious, or depressed, we become highly emotional.
The body pumps out adrenaline and the stress hormone – cortisol, ready for us to take action. We become very black and white in our thinking, and all rational thought goes out of the window. Of course this is not a helpful state to be in, if we are to begin to understand the beliefs and motivations of others who have a different point of view to us.
We need some shades of grey.
The 7/11 breathing technique does just that. It triggers the body’s natural relaxation response (the parasympathetic nervous system), which in contrast to ‘fight or flight’ is often referred to as ‘rest and digest’ mode. It quickly dissolves any adrenaline and cortisol that has been building up and allows us to feel calm and relaxed both in the body and the mind. The ability to think clearly is restored and our energy levels begin to return to normal.
How to do 7/11 breathing to feel less emotional and more calm.
- You can be sitting or lying down for this, put your hands on your belly and breathe in for a count of seven, allowing your stomach to rise as you do so.
- Breathe out for a count of eleven, feeling your stomach sink back down again.
- Do this for two minutes and notice yourself beginning to feel calmer and more balanced.
- If 7/11 is too much for your lungs to do, begin with a pattern of 4/8 – breathe in for the count of four, and out to the count of eight. As long as the out breath is longer than the in breath, you are doing it right.
It is a good idea to do this technique at various times throughout the day (if you are feeling very stressed), as well as in the morning when you open your eyes, and again as you go to bed at night. With each round of 7/11 breathing, you are lowering your base level of stress which means it becomes a lot harder to get tense and wound up.
2. Distance yourself from the negative stuff
Negative comments, articles, and images are aplenty right now across all social media channels. It happened after Brexit too – people took their head full of emotions and poured them straight into Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else that was familiar to them.
Remember the black and white thinking? If we take to social media with that kind of mentality it serves us no good at all. We are either looking for people to agree with our viewpoint, which tends to bury us deeper into our beliefs. Or we are becoming triggered by those who don’t agree with our viewpoint, which fuels upset, anger, and hurt. Social media can be a little like road rage; people feel braver behind the screen of their device, in the same way they do of their car, to behave in ways they rarely would in a face to face exchange.
If you are finding social media is becoming the source of your stress and anxiety, you do know the answer to this…
Turn It Off.
Everything that has needed to be said, has been said.
Turn it off, and get on with your day.
The same applies with negative people, if you find yourself in a post election conversation that is turning negative, you know the answer to this too…
Change the subject.
There is so much to talk about in this world, that does not involve politics.
You can even be direct with them: “you know what, I don’t think us talking in this way is helping either of us feel better about the situation. How about we change the subject, or instead send out love and compassion to everyone in the US right now, regardless of how they voted?”
It is important to remember that much of what is being said at this moment in time, online and offline – is speculation, hearsay, and subjective opinion. When we make stuff up about the future and believe it to be true, it is a misuse of the imagination. Choosing to stay close to the facts will serve you well, as will relaxing with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how the future will play out – and being OK with that.
3. Get back to living your life.
I remember after Brexit – life kind of stopped for a while as everything became focused around what had just happened. People spoke of little else, and nothing seemed as important as Brexit. Good friends became hostile to one another because of polarized political beliefs, and those on the same side bonded and got stronger. None of this was helpful. You know that there is so much more to life than politics. There is more to you than your political preference.
As human beings we need to live a full life where all of our needs are met, if we allow areas of our life to slide because we are too focused and consumed on only one area, our mental health will soon begin to decline. Focus your attention on the things that have nothing to do with politics – move your body, eat nice food, set yourself goals, focus on your work, do something kind for someone else. Getting your needs met in healthy and appropriate ways will help you get back your sense of perspective.
When we have perspective on our side, we naturally let go of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Sarah Swanton is the Founder of Happy Healthy Entrepreneur, which is all about helping business owners and entrepreneurs successfully navigate their way through the ‘inner journey’ of being self employed, so they can do their best work with clients, and build a business that supports them, not exhausts them! Click here to get access to your free Mindset Toolkit for Entrepreneurs which includes the self hypnosis audio ‘Switch Off & Relax’ as well as a copy of the Burnout Antidote Framework.