The 2020 Presidential election is over. We have a voted for a President Elect and Vice President Elect – Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.  It was a race to the finish between the Red and the Blue.  Some elations were that historical numbers of people stood patiently in long lines for hours.

Unprecedented millions of people mailed in their votes due to the global pandemic COVID19.  It was the largest number of votes registered in a presidential election ever.  It was exciting and oftentimes fierce.  But, as a nation now, what are some after-election deflations?

The answer is that many now have an anxiety that they’ve didn’t have before.

Here are some facts: H. Steven Moffic, MD wrote in the Psychiatric Times about election anxiety.  His research indicated that Democrats had experienced more anxiety than Republicans.  The percentages of those suffering were higher if one already had a psychiatric condition.

Women seemed to be more sensitive to anxiety than men. Trouble with concentration, the flight or fight response kicking in, self-medicating or drinking higher amounts of alcohol for relief were noted for both males and females. Those already struggling with uncertainty or past trauma suffered even more.

Anxiety disorders are not new.  They differ from “a little worrying” which most of us do.  Of the possible emotional disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental diagnosis and some 30 percent of us will be affected by one during our lifetime.

Here are examples of two more well-known anxiety disorders:  Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) where we worry about lots of random things particularly what’s coming in the future and Panic Disorder where we feel extreme fear that we’re having a heart attack or choking and can’t breathe.

Our anxiety and anger responses to this election were to be expected. Unexpected was that some of us became obsessive and sat inches away from our screens mesmerized, paralyzed, or hypnotized.  We scrolled and surfed incessantly wanting to know: What was happening? Who was winning? Who was saying what to whom? When will they call the winner?  It was so stressful.

But, was the election all bad? Let’s look at some positives and negatives our psyches might say about that question.  On the positive side, participation in the democratic process was the highest ever. That this race happened during a global pandemic made the numbers even more impressive.  We masked up, showed up, and stood six feet apart!

On the negative side, the name calling, the rising tensions, the angry explosions were non-stop.  Let’s face it – Americans are people of conviction and we believe in freedom of speech.  But the harsh conversations never ceased and violence broke out.  It was frightening and that kind of brain engagement is difficult to halt.  It can take control of us and take on a life of its own.

So, if you are suffering now, I encourage you to seek medical help. Telemedicine is a great resource. Short-term medication has also been shown to help with anxiety.  Additionally, talk or group or supportive therapy helps, too.  There’s much available online so please don’t be embarrassed reaching out for help; we all need help and support during difficult times in our lives.

No one likes to lose. The Democrats and supporters of their party would have felt the same disappointment if their candidate had lost.  Many factors compounded this election’s tribulation, particularly COVID19.  This pandemic ratcheted up anxieties, agonies and grief with numbers of cases reported and deaths mounting daily. Racial unrest, civil unrest, the environment in such distress, the media reports being questioned repeatedly – we were bombarded and hurting as a nation. The fervor was harsh and frightening.

We ask presently, psychologically, is it possible now in the election’s aftermath to deal more fairly with one another? I say yes, it is.  It won’t be easy and here is why.  Relationships were bruised during this election. Some of us stopped talking to our friends to avoid political blow-ups. Social media sites inflamed participants.  Shocked and angry we hit ‘unfriend’ or ‘unfollow’ or worse, battled publicly because they were on the left or on the right.

But now we need to shift our mindset and be more positive and patient with one another. We really can move forward in harmony and hope, I believe that. Resiliency is a studied clinical phenomenon and that’s an encouraging realty right there. We can breathe in justice and exhale mercy.  An additional incentive for all of us is that the entire world is noticing closely how we handle our victories and our defeats.

Republicans will gradually absorb their loss and Democrats will need to be good winners and not gloat.  Exhibiting empathy is a good place to begin. We’ve all learned so much from this election, that all of our lives matter and powerfully so.  It’s time to accept the results of this election and choose to be kinder.  Agree to disagree.  Lift one another up. Find common ground.

Each of us knows intuitively and instinctively that our souls were never defined by color, culture, creed or political party. We must hold dear the reality that our children and grandchildren are watching and listening closely to us.  Let’s allow the younger generation to witness ‘the better angels of our nature.’

It’s time to heal. Time to choose a new course of action. Time to calm our nervous systems down which will improve both our sleep, our dispositions and our relationships. Remember Abraham Lincoln’s sterling truth that “a nation divided against itself cannot stand.” So, let’s stand together.  Let’s light up those deck heaters and our hearts. Let’s grab a mask and invite a few family members and neighbors over to celebrate a deeper understanding.  Throw in a little forgiveness for what you said and what you heard someone else say. The time has come to bow our heads, raise a glass, or even do both and whisper a little prayer to ourselves, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

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Mary Jane Hurley Brant

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S.,CGP, is a practicing psychotherapist for 37 years who specializes in grief. She is author of the book, When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir of Love, Loss and Life. In this first person narrative M.J. addresses the suicide of her father when she was 13 and the life and death of her daughter, Katie, of a brain tumor. She is the founder of Mothers Finding Meaning Again. MJ can be reached through her website www.MaryJaneHurleyBrant.com

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