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Stanford University School of Medicine

On election anxiety and post-election survival tips

patriotic-1345266_1280After repeatedly waking up in the night and obsessively checking news online, Karen Ande, a physical therapist and photographer who lives in San Francisco, realized the election was hurting her health.

"I was anxious and distractible," she said in a recent phone interview.

The battle between the two leading presidential candidates was certainly on her mind, Ande said. But more than that, the focus on issues like sexual harassment felt very personal, she explained.

Something had to give, so Ande said she stopped reading one of her favorite news sites, decided to volunteer for her chosen candidate and began posting positive election messages on her Facebook page. "It was really a good thing to do. No matter what happens I’ll feel better after having done something that helps."

Ande's coping strategies echo the recommdations offered by Stanford's Keith Humphreys, PhD, a psychiatry professor who has been speaking publicly about the quite prevalent phenomenon. As Ande experienced, this campaign has aired some divisive, often hurtful sentiments about groups of Americans or issues like gender and power. Here's Humphreys from a recent interview on NPR's All Things Considered:

This has been much more painful for people, I think, than the typical American election because so much of it has become about not so much policy differences, but about whether certain groups in the country are good or bad and whether they have a right to be around or not.

Ande admitted she doesn't have a good plan if her candidate loses. Humphreys, though, has given the matter of post-election healing some thought:

The most important recommendation I have is for the winners, which is to be gracious in victory. We all have to live with each other a lot longer than the next four years...

The other thing I'd recommend to people if you do lose is not to get on social media because people will not be gracious on social media. I'm sure that no matter what happens, Twitter is going to be about the nastiest place on Earth the day after the election.

Previously: When it comes to health care, what steps should the next president take? and Stanford med school alum carves Clinton and Trump jack-o-lanterns
Image by ZIPNON

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