A few tools for recovering from political campaign fatigue

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 By Linda Arnold

The political campaigns are over … finally!

Whether you’re celebrating victories for your preferred candidates or drowning your sorrows, there’s no question this has been a stressful time for our country. 
On the national front, we were deeply divided going into the presidential election cycle (which seems to be getting longer and longer all the time), and there wasn’t much in the way of unification from the primary to the general.
Physical, mental and emotional effects I’ve worked in political campaigns, and there was a tendency to think, “We just have to make it to November!”  Running on empty (and often exhausted), adrenaline is what kept the campaign staff going.
But then when November rolled around, many of us were stricken with “post campaign depression.” Even though that’s the time frame we’d all been waiting for, it was tough to go from 100 mph down to 20. Our bodies, minds and spirits were conditioned to that breakneck pace, and it was hard to dial down.
Regardless of whether you’ve worked directly in a campaign, it’s hard to escape the effects: nonstop television commercials, robocalls and discussions just about everywhere. Even while you you’re alone — on social media.
Control freaks
Here’s a quick reality check:
1)  You have no control of anything outside yourself
2)  You have total control of everything inside yourself
Once you realize something is out of your control, you have the option of freeing yourself from bondage. The moral of the story is that you have choices every day about how you’re going to feel emotionally. You can choose to wallow in misery or dust yourself off and go about your life.
Fortunately — or unfortunately — we all get lots of practice!
Turning down the heat
Since things certainly reached a fever pitch during the long campaigns, it’s helpful to turn down the heat now as everyone is moving on. Which brings up the point: How can we keep debates from getting so heated in the first place? Maybe there’s a way to tamp this down in the post-election analysis phase.
Rather than feeling attacked, try framing a situation more objectively. When someone is in an attacking mode, there are often underlying insecurities, as well as pain, that drive their behavior.
Think of the verbal attacker as vulnerable — or even pitiful — for having to resort to such tactics. This puts a whole fresh spin on things.
If you attack back, you’re just fueling the fire and becoming irrational yourself. At this point, you’re giving away your own power.
Good Grief
Let’s face it … many of you have been so “dug in” to your candidate it will be hard to get on board with another one if that ends up being the case.
Our biggest stressors come from those things outside our control. And, while collectively we had the opportunity to play a part in the outcome of this election, its overall results were outside our control.
So, in terms of moving on, there are likely to be stages of recovery. In my research I took a look at the stages of the grief process — because many of you will be experiencing these things, at least to some extent:
1.  Denial
2.  Anger
3.  Bargaining
4.  Depression
5.  Acceptance
Denial and anger may be expressed in trying to demonize the other side or rationalize why things didn’t work out your way. Bargaining could take the form of offsetting the loss. 
Maybe you didn’t get the president you wanted, but you could put your energies into analyzing the congressional debate over issues that matter to you, along with subsequent actions that will be taken. Inaction may be a more appropriate term — as we could be headed for more of that infamous gridlock.
Depression and acceptance are the last two stages of the grief process. It will take time to make it through these. And, while you may not totally get to acceptance, you will likely get to a state of resignation.  
This may be too much of a dramatization for some of you. Obviously, some will be more affected than others. In terms of moving on, though, it helps to realize these changes won’t occur overnight. 
Managing expectations going forward will be key — how we look at the issues that matter to us on a daily basis. Separating personalities from policies is not an easy thing to do.
Two key concepts 
One of my favorite books is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Two of the main principles are so simple — and hold the key to peace of mind in our lives. Yet it can be very challenging to enact them in our “living laboratory of life:” 
•  Don’t make assumptions
•  Don’t take things personally
These are major touchstones to apply to so many situations in life, and I believe they take on special significance now — especially in these first few weeks and months following this polarizing election.
Whether you’re coming to terms with those around you — coworkers, friends, and extended family — or casting aspersions on specific leaders or society as a whole — it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the only thing that’s within your control: you. And your reactions to the events around you.
Letting it go
A technique developed by author Bill Austin, “Let it Go, Forgive, Surrender, Forget and Move On Cycle” (gotta love that name) is helpful in dealing with stress.
This technique has been effective with life stressors such as letting go of a relationship or releasing a painful life experience like losing a job, coping with the death of a family member or ruminating over being “done wrong.” It could also be helpful in dealing with a stressor like an election loss.
These experiences can be very painful because we usually don’t decide to release things until the pain of holding onto them becomes too unbearable. While an election loss is further removed from these personal tragedies, the formula can still be helpful.
Decide to let go of the event, reminding yourself that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to get sick. The “Forgive” phase is about healing yourself on the inside so you can be happier on the outside. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you roll over from your principles. It just means you’re releasing the negative tensions that keep you from moving forward.
The “Surrender and Move On” process is likely the hardest. It’s about embracing the change on all levels. Yeah, right … easier said than done. You’ll know you’ve reached the final stage, “Forget,” when the event no longer has that internal emotional charge on you.
Putting your own oxygen mask on first
The more you can fortify yourself against external forces, the better you’ll be able to withstand stress.  
Remember to engage in some rituals that help bring you back to center — getting out into nature, listening to some soothing music, taking a hot bath, etc. 
These things don’t take much time — and, yet, they can work wonders with resetting your internal pressure cooker.
Switching gears toward Thanksgiving
The traditional day of gratitude is right around the corner, and that could provide a respite from the rancor. Or, at least, put things into perspective.
Whatever results occurred on Election Day, it’s not the end of the world. Everyone will go on. It’s up to you how you choose to do so.
As author Carlos Castanada said, “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”

©2016, “Linda Arnold Living Well,” all rights reserved.
Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor, certified wellness instructor and keynote speaker with a home in Ocean Isle Beach. She is also the founder and former CEO of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org.