By Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP
For 1 1/2 years we’ve been bombarded daily with candidate interviews, political commentary, primaries, speeches, polls, mudslinging, ads, and frankly, we’re sick of it. The amount of negativity spewing from both sides is exhausting and out-right depressing!
But as we receive the election results, some of us will be rejuvenated with hope while others will fall into the abyss of an election loss. Election depression is real, very real.
What is election depression?
Its despondency (a drop in mood stemming from a loss of hope) after an election. We’ve discussed election anxiety recently as many people are fearing the result but we haven’t prepared the country for what happens when the vote doesn’t swing their way. Feelings of sadness, guilt, remorse, agitation, irritability, are just a few of the signs.
Why “depression”? What causes election depression?
Multiple factors can cause this..
- The loss. Humans don’t like to lose. We’re competitive in nature and want to win, or be on the winning side. The losers get nothing after their loss but a future they did not choose. Which brings us to….
- Lack of control. Humans like to make their own destiny. If they work hard, do the right thing, they can mold their future. The loss of an election that they hoped would change their future, is perceived as a loss of the future they were supposed to have.
- Embarrassment. Those of us who were vocal about who we were supporting and incurred bullying from opponents, now have to face these same individuals with the public humiliation of a loss.
- Much pain, no gain. The 1 1/2 year physical and psychological build up and work that went into the election brings very little gain during an election loss. Feeling like one wasted his time, energy, and money may affect his psyche.
- The end is abrupt. Election results, as compared to the 1 1/2 year process, comes at us like a ton of bricks. Many people may not be psychologically prepared to take bad news in such a swift blow.
- Regret. We defriended social media contacts and ended year long relationships with friends and family over this election. Maybe even quit our job. This could seem impossible to repair.
How do we prevent election depression?
On one hand its good to passionate about an issue or candidate. Passion drives us to make change, build, progress, restore, and all the good verbs that our great country needs.
However, while we’re being passionate, we need to be prepared.
When you’ve been through as many elections as I have, you learn that you don’t win them all. You also learn that one candidate will always win and one candidate will always lose. Not thinking about the latter won’t wish it away. The reality of your last choice candidate being your President needs to be faced. So its better to mentally prepare for it early.
Here’s some things you can do:
- Pseudo-reality role playing
One technique I’ve done with patients is pretend for 24 hours “So and So” won the Presidency. After the group laughs and makes vomit gestures, I remind them that they need to, over the course of 24 hours, live their day with that pseudo-reality in play. The results? Many say “it wasn’t so bad”….”we’re still living”….”we may handle our finances a different way,” etc.
2. Don’t drink the night of the election.
Getting wasted will just make you feel awful the next day, and election depression is worse the 24 hours after an election.
3. Plan family and friend gatherings of like minded individuals the week of the results
Avoiding those who will gloat may help soften the blow and being around your support team will help you realize there is emotional strength in numbers
4. Take a break from the news
Watch programs that will cheer you up or begin diving into new projects for the coming months.
5. Make up with friends you lost
The guilt will consume you when you realize you threw away a good friendship over a “stupid election”. Shake hands and hug it out.
6. Plan a vacation
The Holidays are coming, so enjoy yourself. You deserve it will all the hard you work you’ve done.
Losing isn’t easy, but its something that we eventually become good at. If my candidate loses, I will start an Election Loser Club. I’ll probably invite Mickey Mouse to be our first guest speaker, since he always seems to be on the ballot each election anyway and never wins. He still though manages to keep a smile on his face. So should we.