Regardless of whom you voted for in the 2016 Presidential election, there is one thing we all can agree on. It was stressful! For the past year, people have been heated on social media, blocking and unfriending those on “the other side.” Families have been arguing. Spouses have been at odds. Now that the election is over, one side will feel the stress associated with the loss. We spoke with Dr. Sanam Hafeez, NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, who shares the signs of Post Election Stress Disorder and what to do about it.
1. Your stomach is in knots!
According to Dr. Hafeez, stressing out about the future of our country can certainly manifest in physical discomfort. When you ruminate about the worst-case scenario it can lead to stomach tension, nausea and lack of appetite. She advises to take a break from news coverage and discussing the election results. “You want to be informed but YOU want to be in control of the news you are seeking out. Select one media outlet that you want to get your news from. Check in the morning and then focus on what you have to do that day.”
2. You can’t focus!
Your mind wanders and you keep worrying about the next 4 years of your life. These wandering thoughts lead to a lack of focus. Dr. Hafeez explains that when we are fixated on a thought and are in a state of worry, it is difficult to give full attention to anything else. Her advice, “go for a 30-minute walk, exercise, meditate by lying still focusing on your breath, color in a coloring book or get a ball and have a catch. You want to choose tasks that are repetitive, pleasurable, calming and don’t require a lot of focus.”
3. You can’t sleep!
You’re tossing and turning and can’t seem to get to that deep level of sleep. “This is a true sign of anxiety and stress,” flags Dr. Hafeez. Sleep is when our bodies turn over cells, fight off illness and are fully relaxed. When stress disturbs sleep for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to a slew of illnesses including, depression and mental illness, heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. “Avoid watching the news before bed as it can evoke worry and negative thoughts. Get into the practice of writing down all the things you appreciated that day so you calm down and drift off on a positive note.”
4. You’re snippy with everyone!
You feel on edge and angry. Anything can set you off. Your cell phone doesn’t work and you throw it across the room. You’re screaming in traffic. You’re irritable at work and prefer the door to your office closed so you can avoid everyone. Dr. Hafeez explains that it is normal to have a short fuse when stressed. Unfortunately the people we love the most get the fallout from our stress. “Put yourself in a ‘time out.’ Notice what is setting you off and avoid it for a day or two. Book a spa massage, take a long bath, pamper yourself, cash in on some well needed ‘me time.’ Within hours your mood will shift, “offers Dr. Hafeez.
5. You’re not in the mood for love.
When stressed it’s common for sexual desire to wane. When your mind is on other things the last thing you want to do is get romantic. According to Dr. Hafeez starting off with sensual touch is calming. “Simply being in the bed holding hands breathing for 2 minutes can work wonders. Don’t rule out sex, ease into it. Avoiding sex only adds another thing to be stressed about and sex is a stress reliever. You need those feel-good brain chemicals to beat the stress,” she reminds us.
So try not to be bummed out and stressed out if your candidate didn’t nab the presidency. Things could be far worse. YOU could be President of the United States. Now THAT is something to be stressed about.