Over the course of the last year, and in particular the last few months, the presidential campaigns have caused high levels of distress across the U.S. Liberals and Conservatives, young and old, minorities of any type (racial, sexual orientation, physical ability) and the majorities, male and female, Republicans and Democrats and everyone in between. We have all experienced high levels of anxiety leading up to the elections, and some continue to feel high stress following Election Day.
The focus for months has been a dangerous “us vs. them” mindset. This divisive mindset was fueled by media reports of the candidates’ actions and words, angry tweets, emotional Facebook posts, and workplace or home conversations about Clinton and Trump.
All that is to be expected during an election season. But it has also resulted in a lot of pain on all sides.
For the mental and emotional health of our citizens, and for the health of the nation as a whole, our focus now should be on restoring ourselves. No matter your stance on the election results, now is the time for our country to pull back together again and heal.
We are one nation.
We cannot be a well-functioning, whole nation if we see only our differences. Even the most basic of relationships relies on finding common ground. A house divided against itself cannot stand. So now we need to make a conscious effort to remember our commonalities.
We all value freedom and equality. We all want to live in safety and peace. We all believe in educating our children, in balancing our national budget, in obtaining good health care. We have different ideas of how to achieve those goals, but we all value them nonetheless.
We all love our families, worry about our kids, want to be healthy. We all love a good steak (well…maybe not vegetarians), celebrate the end of the workweek, and groan at the ref’s bad call. We have incredible commonalities that make us American, and that make us human.
Start with healing in your home. Perhaps you found yourself on different sides from a family member. Take this time to let your spouse or child or parent or brother or sister know that you love and respect them. And not in spite of those differences, but because of those differences! We need diversity to thrive, and that includes political diversity. Without their political opinions, that family member wouldn’t be who they are. And you love them for who they are.
So apologize for any words said out of heightened emotions. Reminisce about positive times and things you’ve shared together. Remind one another of why you love and respect each other. Maybe even make plans to do something fun together.
Then do the same in your other relationships. With friends and co-workers, church and community members, neighbors, classmates. Restore those relationships and begin the healing process.
What would the U.S. be like if we all did this?
Remember to focus on healing yourself as well. Whether you’re happy or upset about the election results, the last several months were stressful. Take care and be extra kind to yourself. Take a bubble bath, eat your favorite ice-cream, go for a bike ride, read a good book. Do what calms you and makes you feel better. Then focus on building yourself and those around you up. If we all focus on building one another up, then we can truly heal.
And finally, more importantly than in any other election before in history: Stop posting emotional statuses. Please, share your opinions online if you wish. But do so in a courteous way that does not attack those that disagree with you. Let’s do better at being respectful than the two primary candidates did. Children are shaped by watching their parents, and citizens are shaped by watching their leaders. Don’t allow yourself to become rude or lose control of your emotions just because that’s the example our leaders set. We can do better than that.
Our nation cannot heal from the top down. We are America, and only we can heal America.
I challenge you to leave an uplifting and respectful comment to other readers below, written without mention of what political side you’re on or what side you disagree with. And if you find yourself needing any professional support during this time, set up an appointment and we’ll get through it together.