With the election tomorrow, I believe Americans will soon confront a new level of “election stress.”
In every other presidential election of my lifetime, the results of the contest seemed very important, but I sensed that America was bigger than any of its leaders. A candidate losing might mean things would be less good, for a time, but they would be good, nonetheless. Ultimately, they would tend to get better.
This faith in America and its leaders—and in Americans—helped me and, I believe, most Americans have hope that we would find the right path, as a people and as a nation. But, now, with our politics so polarized, and our parties embracing such different principles, I believe millions and millions of Americans will greet the election of a presidential candidate they do not favor as a sign that the country does not speak to them or for them. And they may not have the expectation or the hope that it will, again, ever.
This fact may well create real anxiety and genuine despair in half the nation, and it will be up to the President-elect to provide leadership that also represents a kind of therapy designed to convince the half of the country which profoundly distrusts him or her that what we all have in common as Americans is greater than our differences. That will be a monumental task.
Here’s my prescription for dealing with “election stress”
1) Remember, this is a nation built on faith. Embrace yours. This country has weathered a civil war and two world wars. The core of our country has been tested, again and again. Try to hold in your mind and your heart the conviction that the next presidential administration is but one chapter in a story founded on deep principles that simply won’t yield to a wrong-minded leader. Determination is one antidote to despondency.
2) Resolve to keep fighting the good fight. Take the election as one round in a long, long contest for freedom versus tyranny. You can’t just sit in the corner of the ring and not answer the bell of liberty that will call on you to stand up and step into the contest for your values— again and again.
3) Double down. Whatever your level of involvement in our democracy has been, resolve to get more involved, not less involved. Reach into yourself to fight harder for what you believe, rather than giving in. Action is an antidote to anxiety.
4) Donate. As soon as you know that your candidate has lost the election, donate to a political cause that represents his or her ideas (and yours). That will signal your heart and mind that you aren’t on the ropes, at all.
5) Don’t Hate. Being resolved to continue working for causes and candidates that reflect your core beliefs does not mean you have to hate those who support other causes and candidates. It just means you have to prevail over them. If your candidate does not win, I suggest you send three congratulatory emails to people in your life who voted for the winning candidate. Tell them that you will continue working for your ideas and ideals, but that you hope that their candidate makes the country strong, for all Americans.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.