As of this writing, there is no clear winner of this presidential election. We’re waiting on Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. It’s unclear to me if mail-in ballots are still coming in and could any influence on other states – but I’m not watching any news coverage or election analysis, so you tell me. I’m completely ignoring the possibility of legal battles.
This election has brought out something that we’re no strangers to in 2020; the public display of coping mechanisms. We’ve seen those who cope by pretending nothing is wrong and attempt to carry on as “normal.” There are those who drown their anxieties in work. Others lay it all out on social media, speculate excessively, process publicly. There are excessive dark humor meme-sharers, newly minted bread bakers, and puzzle enthusiasts.
The election reveals that some of us are taking our coping mechanisms even further. Alcohol is a common theme, as are non-stop updates, speculation, and excessive “doom posting”; after 2016, I don’t see many optimists around. But however you’re coping right now, you don’t need the added guilt of feeling like you’re doing it wrong.
We turn to coping mechanisms for survival. They may not be useful or healthy in the long run, but currently, they serve your needs. Maybe you need to suppress to get through the day or fixate on work or ignore your emotions. Maybe your fast-food consumption and online shopping habits are starting to seem excessive (just me?). When growing up in unhealthy environments, children develop protective habits that can lead to harmful behaviors as adults. Those behaviors were once useful; they may have even been necessary for survival and well-being. As adults, those behaviors no longer serve the same purpose, and that’s when we need to work on them.
In the middle of this contentious election, we’re in child mode. But the election will end. And that’s when your work begins. In the aftermath, you might experience relief or enter a period of grieving. Either way, you’ll need to be forgiving of yourself. After this election, please make sure you:
- Rest. You’ve been through an incredible amount of stress.
- Process your emotions. Emotions are information. Use them to figure out where you’re at and what you need.
- Express your emotions. Find a non-harmful outlet. Cry. Do an intense workout. Vent to a friend. Journal. Cry some more.
- Look outside yourself. Connect with others. Spoil your kids or friends. Set up a virtual wine or movie or game night. As an introvert, I hate to say it, but other people put things in perspective and pull me out of negative spirals. And other people need you too.
I’m not any kind of expert in these topics. I just follow a lot of therapists on Instagram and am interested in working on myself. I found that getting through graduate school has made self-work a requirement, not a luxury. I think self-work is essential to being an effective teacher. And in my vision of a better academia, I hope we don’t shy away from these conversations.