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Post-Election Stress Syndrome (PESS)

By: Jerry
Jerry's picture

Dwight Bain is a very smart man with a big heart.  He's been one of America's foremost communicator's and counselor's on making positive changes.  He's been quoted in dozen of publications including the Washington Post, New York Times, MSNBC and FOXbusiness.  Morning show host Jerry Woods calls him a "hope spreader", and here WGTS we just call him friend.  We thought you'd appreciate his encouragement on where we go from here after the election.

A major election leads to major mental change. No matter who wins an election, the unexpected emotional letdown or explosive reaction after the ballots are counted can be overwhelming to many, especially the aged or over-involved who can be set up for crushing amounts of what I call Post-Election Stress Syndrome.

This election has likely been the most negative of any during our lifetime because of numbing news fatigue and continual media over-exposure with hostile attacks, yet the real problems are yet to come.

Personal anxiety, Professional panic and poorly thought out decisions are on the horizon regardless of your political persuasion.   Why such a gloomy projection?

It’s based on how this election process has been overwhelming much of the time with months of negative news, never ending data to process and confusing choices to make on complex issues while partisan experts are shouting every half-hour on news/talk stations that our country and freedoms are doomed if their candidate doesn’t win.

Not to mention the huge challenge on who is trustworthy, since you often don’t know who will say something inappropriate on YouTube to crash their credibility, leaving you feeling very alone to make some major decisions without leaders who lack the strength of character to stand on their convictions instead of popular opinion polls.

Mountain top experiences guarantee the next step is always down in the valley

Think of a major campaign like climbing a major mountain range. You prepare for years and then climb for months to finally reach the top. Once there the view is great. You take some pictures, but you can’t stay on a mountain top, so no matter which path you take next it will be downhill in any direction. After the mountain top comes the valley, which isn’t a negative view, it’s just a normal part of life.

The danger for many people is that the downward slide of mood and emotion can come as quite unexpected. Most actual mountain climbing accidents happen on the way down, so it is likely there will be millions of people who are unprepared for the emotional upheaval they are about to experience after this national election is over.

Everyone may feel some degree of emotional letdown once the issues have been decided and the acceptance speeches are given. That’s normal, however for some the removal of posters, signs, balloons and banners will lead to a free fall of crushing or depressing emotions.  It will be especially stressful and difficult for those who have been on ‘political news overload’ the last few months. These post-election stress symptoms will come out in several ways.

Possible Reactions to Post-election Stress

1)     Anger –

This can lead to violence or impulsive decisions. People who feel violated by the election process may turn to dumping volcanic levels of anger at someone or something to find relief for the pressure inside. This can lead to devastating decisions, impulsive rage or using the wrong words in front of the wrong people and losing credibility or worse a job. This can happen in men or women, young or old, but is most commonly seen in more extroverted personalities and it tends to blow-up. Worse is when an angry group of people get together to express their anger because all that rage doesn’t lead to constructive actions. Angry people will go and do angry things.


2)    Anxiety or Apathy–

This is a more serious reaction, since it can lead from distress to the early stages of depression or panic. Stuffing emotions inside is like burying them alive, so they just keep building up, yet instead of blowing up and out, they blow in. This leads a person to feel emotionally numb, and often can cause an individual to commit a series of very quiet, yet very harmful self-destructive acts. Eating for comfort, drinking to numb the pain, hooking up with the wrong partner to try and forget about their fears of the future or just refusing to answer the phone, closing the mini-blinds and checking out on life like a hermit hiding in a dark cave. Darkness won’t make the fear go away, but it may lead to feeling like an emotional prisoner with no hope of escape.


3)    Acceptance –

The best choice after an election is acceptance. It’s over and now it’s time to move on with whatever leaders and issues the majority of voters selected. You can’t change the outcome of an election, but you can freak yourself out with fears about the future apocalypse predicted by many. Don’t do that! Life will go on, and your world can continue to move forward when you trust in the process instead of placing your confidence in political opinion polls.

God is bigger than any politician and God isn't in a panic, so trust in heaven's agenda and not that of Washington which will lead to a deeper level of peace.

What happens in your house is way more important than what happens in the White House since you can’t control what political leaders do, but you can control your mood and reactions to circumstances.

Let this journey walking down off the political ‘mountain’ be one of a growing sense of perspective as you remember that after the valley there will be another mountain to climb. There will be another day to vote on national issues and when the dust settles your life will usually be about as good as you choose to make it.

This approach takes the power to control your mood away from the politicians or the news media so you can build a better life without losing sleep or energy from the dangers of post-election stress syndrome.


About the Author – Dwight Bain guides people through major change as a counselor and executive coach based in Orlando where he lives with his wife and two adult children. Follow him across all social media platforms @DwightBain