You’re broken over Donald Trump’s victory. Here’s what to do next.
So the election is over and now you feel like someone died, right? You're not alone.
As Jimmy Kimmel put it on his eponymous late night show on Wednesday, "there's a lot of sorrow in the air." The host humorously took his audience through the five stages of grief, but here's the most painful part about the comparison: It's funny because it's true.
It's important to know that having a lot of feelings about Donald Trump's victory is entirely normal. Experiencing this loss "is a process, not an event," health practitioner Dr. Kathy Gruver said in an interview. "You need to be compassionate and patient with yourself and with others. This is a process that people go through at their own rates." Indeed, 50% of voters in the country are navigating their own grief.
While there's no one-size-fits-all prescription for accepting Trump's win — acceptance is the last of the five stages of grief — there are some universal coping mechanisms proven to provide relief. You owe it to yourself to try a few. Read on:
Yes. Just breathe. It is real, scientifically-sound medicine. Breathing is proven to lower a person's heart rate and stress levels. If there's one good thing you do for yourself post-Election Day, let it be taking a breath.
"The first thing we need to do is pause for a second and take a break," Gruver said. It's important to respond to the news rather than react to it; it's the only way your anger will be able to move through you.
Find some deep-breathing techniques here.
Talk about your feelings with like-minded people
"It's really important to not back away from your feelings," psychotherapist Dr. Deb Sandella said. She suggests seeking out friends, colleagues and family members who you know share your outrage. "Take a half hour and together have a bitch-session where you share your grief, your anger," she said.
Turns out "bitch-sessions" are quite effective at improving one's mental state because anger, Sandella notes, is paralyzing. "When we actually start to express the anger, it actually mobilizes us and there's less helplessness and less hopelessness." In other words, you're going to feel better.
It's worth advising, though, that you be mindful of who you communicate your feelings to. If it's a person who's not on your side, the strategy is likely to backfire.
Take a news break
You need to unplug, whether it's the TV, Facebook, Twitter or all of the above. You may have an urge to publicize your gripes and grief on social media, but as Gruver put it, it's too soon, too raw. Even more, if it's public, you're encouraging people with a different point of view to swoop in with a fight. Their responses will only re-enrage you, undoing your efforts of self-care.
Being hyperconnected with the news cycle can exacerbate anxiety, insomnia and other things you've probably already experienced during election week. Cutting the cord every now and again gives yourself a chance to recuperate.
Know that emotions are transient
Perhaps there's comfort in knowing that feelings don't become part of us. They are transient. "Feelings are spontaneous and they flow through us," Sandella said. "We actually have a very effective emotional system, we just don't know how to use it."
This goes back to venting — finding those who share your pain to speak to — and letting your emotions flow out. "If we let [our feelings] through, we don't have to carry them in our body any more," Sandella said. You don't have to allow your pain to become baggage.
Stay in the present moment
Remember: Obama is still in office. "We honestly have no clue what is going to happen," Gruver said. "We can worry about what's going to happen, [speculate on] all the things that'll go wrong, but we have no idea. Even the presidents with the best intentions can't get anything done."
Allowing yourself to prematurely worry makes it that you''ll have to feel horrible twice if things do go awry. Of course "being present" is much easier said than done. Here are two actionable ways to be here now:
1. Turn your breathing into a meditation
The first thing that goes when you're in a stressed state is your breathing, Gruver said. Thinking about slowing down your breath can actually pull you out of that stressful state. Whether you meditate every night or have written off the practice as not-for-you, there's a way to take advantage of its proven benefits (call it a meditation or don't). Here's how to take a mini-meditation: Think about your breath. When you inhale, think "I am." When you exhale, think "at peace." Repeat.
Why does this work? "You can really only think about one thing at a time," Gruver said. "It's going to be harder for other thoughts to come in." If an unsavory thought does disturb your meditation, allow yourself to dismiss it without judgment, and keep breathing.
2. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness isn't just a buzzword. It's a practice for being in the present moment, and you can really transform any kind of task into a mindfulness practice. As Gruver said, go about something you do everyday, whether it's brushing your teeth, having sex, taking a shower or driving to work, and go about it with focus and curiosity while engaging all of your senses. Take stock in how the activity looks, feels, smells, tastes and sounds. That is being present. "If you get so immersed in that activity with all of your senses, you can't help but be in that present moment," Gruver said.
Write it down
Maybe a vocal whine-session isn't your style. But, as Sandella said, its vital that you "express and externalize your feelings," otherwise you'll be holding in that baggage. Taking pen to paper and writing down your feelings without any editing is another way to allow your emotions to flow through and leave you.
Gruver suggests jotting down a gratitude list. The world may feel heavy, you may feel like shit, but there are things in your life for which you are grateful. Reminding yourself of the good and expressing gratitude is proven to be good for your health, your mood and probably your Trump-induced meltdown.
Turning your feelings into words and then your words into action may feel empowering, Gruver said. "Volunteer, help others, write letters, organize groups," she said. It makes us feel less helpless. My client just expressed that she is going to start volunteering at Planned Parenthood a few hours a month and that one her friends started an online resource to help immigrants prepare for the citizenship exam. Taking action makes us feel better and it helps."