Roy Exum: Surviving Tomorrow

Monday, November 7, 2016 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

It’s almost more than a soul should have to bear. Over half-a-million Americans are suffering right now from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which comes when the shorter days and longer nights seem to give us the blues. Add the switch back to Eastern Standard Time, when darkness seems to last even longer, and Louisa Sylvia, the director of psychology as Massachusetts General Hospital, says “a lack of light can impact our biological functioning.”

But this particular week in November there is more: A 2016 survey just out by the American Psychological Association affirms what all of us have been thinking – over half of those who live in the United States right now (52 percent) are experiencing a very real case of “election distress”. Those who are responsible – the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents – have us on a collision path with tomorrow’s election and I don’t care who you are, the results will not be pretty regardless of who wins.

While I am hardly a psychiatrist, it pays to be ready. Seriously, if some evil is to befall us, the best defense is a good offense and a game plan. Dr. Deborah Serani, a foremost authority on depression, tells us what to do in a column she published on the Psychology Today website: “Many individuals can experience a letdown of enormous proportions if their candidate doesn't win the election. Research tells us the more invested you are in a nominee, the more crushing their defeat can be to your own well-being.

“One way to prevent the negative after effects of an election is to be realistic about government - and realistic about change. I remind myself that change takes time and that governing is a slow process,” she added. “I don't worry too much because I know there are many checks and balances - and I can find ways to get my voice heard if things move in an undesirable election. More important than anything else, and I accept what I can change in my immediate world and what I can't change.”

But why are so many so passionate? This presidential election has been the worst spectacle of human behavior I can ever remember and Dr. Serani tells us why – “Emotions win elections.” She presents outstanding evidence that once again we have been skillfully manipulated. An excerpt from her article tell us how it has been done:

* * *

“As the election process intensifies, nominees bombard us with negative campaigns, fear-based rhetoric and constant press conferences. Candidate speeches are generally scripted to persuade and influence -- and are often peppered with an underlying message of danger.

“Other political groups find ways to jostle the campaign trail by leaking videos or launching negative stories for their own interests. And then there's news media, broadcast television, social media and internet websites that perpetuate the negative atmosphere by telling sensational stories, challenging the opinion of others in heated guest segments or poking at issues that challenge us as a country: unemployment, immigration, money, health, education. Before long, the general public splinters into polarizing groups, where anger or anxiety abound.

“The negativity from Election Stress keeps rolling on - and research tells us it's not going to get any better anytime soon. You see, emotions win elections. Though positive campaigning can heighten your feelings of enthusiasm and hope, it is fear, anger and anxiety that gets you in the voting booth. You're more likely to make sure to get out and vote if you worry that you'll lose things in election times.”

* * *

Of course she is right! This is why we actually vote against a candidate instead of for a politician.

Think of how your body reacts. Just as “extra darkness” decreases our melatonin levels – which regulates our hormones – Dr. Serani says that “when your body is faced with stress, particularly fear-based stress, the adrenal glands secrete glucocorticoid hormones to help you cope. Specifically, your body launches cortisol to help you get away from danger, where your heart rate increases, and blood flow goes to everything you need to run away or fight.

“This fight-flight response is meant for short term stress - and becomes wearisome if it's elongated. You'll eventually get irritable, anxious, and even depressed because you're in a prolonged ‘state of emergency.’”

That makes some among us say cuss words as we study election results but for an expert like Dr. Serani, who is an adjunct professor at Adelphi University as well as a practicing psychologist for the last quarter of a century, there are better ways to cope. She offers these five tips for handling whatever tomorrow brings:

1. LIMIT YOUR EXPOSURE TO THE MEDIA -- Turn off the television, power down from the internet. Give yourself a break from the onslaught of negative campaigning … watch news shows that give an overview of the day's highlights. Stay informed yet stay away from drama.

2. CHOSE PRINT MEDIA -- Grabbing the local paper or a weekly magazine will reduce the likelihood that you'll get exposed to emotionally triggering material. 

3. TAKE CHARGE -- You have the power to turn off the remote, link out of a website or change the radio station. You can always put down the newspaper or turn the page. Don't let yourself be passive when you feel negative campaigning is overwhelming you.

4. KNOW YOUR LIMITS -- Other people will have a different tolerance for election issues than you. If you've reached a saturation point, where you don't want to talk about politics, make your feelings known, walk away or change the subject. Avoid getting into political debates or wasting your passion about issues with a person who doesn't share your beliefs.

5. FEED YOUR SENSES -- Consider having an electronic-free day. Unplug from the phone, the computer, don't watch television or linger on social media. Let your senses take in the simpler things in life. (The Weather Channel will have soothing music and pictures all day tomorrow.)

* * *

THE SERENITY PRAYER

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Amen.

royexum@aol.com


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