Like millions of people, I am still stunned. The unlikely happened. Experts were wrong. And like 9/11 the world seems poised to change forever. I advised clients and friends how to move forward on 9/12. My interview with Marshall Loeb was a MarketWatch feature for weeks, followed by numerous talks and articles with specific actions to move beyond, including how to help others deal with diverse emotions. Over the years I've modified that Moving Forward email to help people progress after personal or work loss.
This election is vastly different from all these scenarios of course, many people are jubilant and enthused about the future. For those, a hearty congratulations and hope all is as great as hoped. But for many, it is still hard to move on and will probably be difficult for sometime. This advice is for you. Journalists, politicians, the American Psychological Association, and many more are offering views, consolation and advice—use whatever works for you. But do take a minute to read the following—it has helped clients, colleagues, and friends weather difficult times for decades. If election was positive for you, save for a time its needed.
People deal with loss differently. Recovery varies widely. Some people compartmentalize their anxiety, stress, and depression and gradually come to grips with loss. Tears, anger, protest, and work will help others recover. A friend is already working on a plan to retake the White House—today she’s renting campaign space. Top executives and others may appear stoic, but have similar feelings. Recognize whether your friends, clients, family, or you are more susceptible and unable to progress.
Those more apt to have difficulty moving on are reflective, thoughtful, or empathetic individuals as well as those without outside ties. In addition this election raised issues that will make getting back to normal difficult for other groups including security/law enforcement experts, Republican officials, women's groups, organizations for disabled, Hispanics, trade organizations as well as businesses and organizations countering climate change. Be sensitive—it may help you to vent, but not the other person. At times of loss sometimes it helps to just listen–action isn't needed, just let someone talk.
Stress will magnify someone's dominant personality traits—I’ve said it before, but bears repeating. Detail-oriented execs become micromanagers. Direct individuals can become blunt/aggressive if stressed while an optimist will become almost hyper. During difficult times my "organization gene" goes into overdrive—indeed I've been know to organize a colleague's desk, exemplifying one of the few truisms in psychology.
If the election didn't go your way, limit your TV viewing/reading about what went wrong/what could go wrong. You can watch, listen or read about it later. If you are empathetic, manage time spent with depressed friends—30 to 60 minutes is good guide. If your candidate won, doesn’t help to try to convince someone that you are right. Won’t work.
If you find yourself getting depressed/distressed/anxious, do something to break the mood. Have a list of things that make you smile—use it. Note: If a loss is personal and despair deep, talk to someone. Be alert to the “early warning signs.”
In general, keep active, go outside, communicate with variety of people. Hug a child, a dog, buy a friend a great cup of coffee or a cookie. Little things will make a big difference—for them and for you.
Remember this won't last—good or bad, the political scene will be vastly different in a year. In meantime, take care of you and be good to others. The future? As the Zen master said, "we'll see."