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Recovering from political campaign fatigue

November 12, 2018

The political campaigns are over ... finally! Whether you’re celebrating victories —or drowning your sorrows —there’s no question this has been a stressful time for our country.

And, if you were a candidate, a campaign staffer or volunteer, there’s a lot to analyze as you move forward—whether you won or lost. No doubt you’ll be evaluating your ongoing commitment to your issues. The very public display of the campaigns has likely invoked resentments and will require inner healing. This all takes time.

On the national front, we were deeply divided going into the midterm elections. On the positive side, I’ve noticed a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, including an uptick in the amount of grassroots, door-to-door campaigning and direct interaction with voters.

Physical, mental and emotional effects

I’ve worked in political campaigns, and there was a tendency to think, “We just have to make it to November!” Running on empty—and often exhausted— adrenaline is what kept the campaign staff going.

However, when November rolled around, we were stricken with “post campaign depression.” Even though that’s the time frame we’d all been waiting for, it was tough to go from 100 miles an hour down to 20.

Whether or not you’ve worked directly in a campaign, it’s hard to escape the effects —nonstop television and radio commercials, print ads, robocalls and discussions just about everywhere. Even while you’re alone—on social media.

Control freaks

Here’s a quick reality check:

• You have no control of anything outside yourself

• You have total control of everything inside yourself

Once you realize something is out of your control, you have the option of freeing yourself from bondage. You have choices every day about how you’re going to feel emotionally. You can choose to wallow in misery or dust yourself off and go about your life. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we all get lots of practice!

Turning down the heat

Since things certainly reached a fever pitch during the long campaigns, it’s helpful to turn down the heat no was everyone is moving on. Rather than feeling attacked, try framing a situation more objectively.

Think of the verbal attacker as vulnerable or even pitiful for having to resort to such tactics. This puts a fresh spin on things

If you attack back, you’re just fueling the fire and becoming irrational yourself. At this point, you’re giving away your OWN power.

Good grief

Let’s face it ... many of you have been so “dug in” to your candidate that it will be hard to get on board with someone else if that ends up being the case. Or, you could choose to put additional energy into the issues that matter most.

Our biggest stressors come from things outside our control. So, in terms of moving on, there are likely to be stages of recovery. In my research I took a look at the stages of the grief process —because many of you will be experiencing these things, at least to some extent:

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

Denial and anger may be expressed in demonizing the other side—or rationalizing why things didn’t work out your way. Bargaining could take the form of offsetting the loss.

Depression and acceptance are the last two stages of the grief process. And, while you may not totally get to acceptance, you will likely get to a state of resignation.

These changes won’t occur overnight, so managing expectations is key. Separating personalities from policies is not an easy thing to do.

Two key concepts

One of my favorite books is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Two of the main principles are so simple—and hold the key to peace of mind in our lives. Yet it can be very challenging to enact them in our “living laboratory of life”:

• Don’t make assumptions.

• Don’t take things personally.

These are major touchstones for many situations, and I believe they take on special significance now—especially in these first few weeks and months following the polarizing elections. Whether you’re coming to terms with those around you or casting aspersions on specific leaders, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the only thing that’s within your control—YOU.

Letting it go

A technique developed by author Bill Austin, “Let it Go, Forgive, Surrender, Forget and Move On Cycle” (gotta love that name), is a helpful stress tool. It has been effective with life stressors such as letting go of a relationship or releasing a painful experience like losing a job, coping with the death of a family member or ruminating over being “done wrong.”

These experiences can be very painful because we usually don’t decide to release things until the pain of holding on to them becomes too unbearable. Remind yourself that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to get sick.

The “forgive” phase is about healing yourself on the inside. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you roll over from your principles. It just means you’re releasing the negative tensions that keep you from moving forward.

The “surrender and move on” process is likely the hardest. It’s about embracing the change on all levels. Easier said than done! You’ll know you’ve reached the final stage, “forget,” when the event no longer has that emotional charge on you.

Putting your own oxygen mask on first

The more you can fortify yourself against external forces, the better you’ll be able to withstand stress. Remember to engage in some rituals that help bring you back to center—getting out into nature, listening to some soothing music, taking a hot bath, etc. These things don’t take much time—and, yet, they can work wonders to reset your internal pressure cooker.

Switching gears toward Thanksgiving

The traditional day of gratitude is right around the corner, and that could provide a respite from the rancor. Or, at least, put things into perspective. Whatever results occurred on Election Day, it’s not the end of the world. Everyone will go on. It’s up to you how you choose to do so.

As author Carlos Castaneda said, “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy.

“The amount of work is the same.”

©2018 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and Founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org.

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