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Election hangover: How to cope with not getting the leader you wanted

WATCH: The 2019 federal election in six minutes

The Liberals won the most seats in Monday’s election and Justin Trudeau was re-elected as Canada’s prime minister.

The Liberals will form a minority government — winning 157 seats — and will need to negotiate support from at least one other party in order to pass any legislation while they are in office.

The Conservatives took 121 seats, the Bloc Quebecois 32 seats and the NDP 24 seats. The Green Party won three seats and Jody Wilson-Raybould was the only independent candidate to capture a seat.

READ MORE: Live Canada election results 2019

For some, the results are welcomed. But those not happy with the outcome may be waking up with post-election stress and disappointment.

“I’ve heard people have extreme anxiety to the point of having severe panic attacks the day after the election when they realize who is going to be their new president or prime minister,” says Dr. Ingrid Söchting, a clinical psychologist and director of the University of British Columbia Psychology Clinic.

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According to Rana Khan, a Toronto-based registered psychotherapist, it is common for people to feel personally impacted by the results of an election.

“This is particularly true if the elected party has major implications for you as an individual, or it has major implications for a specific group that you belong to or interact with,” Khan says.

“Generally, people have feelings of uncertainty or a general sense of loss, defeat or hopelessness.”

Söchting says she’s seen such reactions in her clinical experience, too, and points to these types of responses south of the border following the 2016 U.S. federal election.

After Donald Trump became president, politics-induced anxiety was given the unofficial name of post-election stress disorder. Several mental health professionals also wrote a book called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which examines the “mental health consequences” of Trump’s presidency.

Federal Election 2019: Trudeau greets supporters at Metro station following election win
Federal Election 2019: Trudeau greets supporters at Metro station following election win

While these cases may be more extreme, Söchting says people may experience more general symptoms of depression, or feel demoralized and discouraged by election results.

So how can you cope with not getting the political outcome you desired? The first step is accepting your emotions.

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Process and accept

“Absolutely pay attention to your feelings and give yourself permission to feel them,” Söchting says.

Feelings are not permanent, Söchting says, and for people who do not have a pre-existing anxiety or mood disorder, these emotions are typically short-lasting.

READ MORE: Separatist talk renews in Alberta following Justin Trudeau Liberal victory

Still, it’s important people sit with their post-election feelings so they can process them. Ignoring them is not a helpful response.

“They may be kind of ugly feelings of anger or even despair, but don’t feel you have to rush into some kind of action mode or new belief about what people are like or our country is like,” Söchting says.

Avoid thinking traps

While dealing with disappointment or anxiety, it’s common to fall into “thinking traps,” Söchting says. These can include “black and white” thinking, catastrophizing or “fortune-telling,” which is when you think you can predict the future.

READ MORE: Trudeau won the most seats, but not a majority. What now?

“Human beings are prone to cognitive biases,” Söchting explains.

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“We humans tend to catastrophize when we are feeling something intensely. So for elections, when the party we voted for doesn’t win, we may catastrophize and believe that our country will be ‘ruined’ or ‘pushed back into the dark ages’ or led ‘by immature people.'”

It’s important for citizens to recognize these thinking traps and challenge them. These exaggerated ways of thinking are not helpful and usually not true, Söchting says.

Federal Election 2019: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech
Federal Election 2019: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech

“We need to de-catastrophize and remind ourselves we live in a strong democracy and we can influence, hold our politicians accountable and follow fair and responsible media outlets over the next four years before the next election,” she says.

Take a break from screens

Leading up to elections, TV and social media are flooded with political news. Once election results are revealed, it’s perfectly OK to take a break from your screens.

“When you are feeling raw and vulnerable, it’s never good to be too obsessed with media and social media,” Söchting says.

READ MORE: Full results of the 2019 federal election

“The election outcome has happened; there’s nothing you can do at this point. … The analysis and what people are saying, you don’t need to know all that on day one or two. It can wait.”

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Practise self-care

It’s important to look after your well-being at all times, but especially when your mental health is suffering.

To help cope with anxiety, sadness and feelings of disappointment, do things that make you feel good. This may be exercising, seeing friends or spending time doing something you enjoy, like baking.

Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh full concession speech
Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh full concession speech
“Get into your routine. Keep moving. Don’t neglect eating well [and] if you are prone to unhelpful ways of coping, maybe this is not a day to drink more,” Söchting says.

“Be really kind to your body and your mind.”

Söchting says it’s also important to spend time with people you trust, like family and friends. These people don’t need to vote the same way as you, but they should be folks whom you feel safe sharing your feelings with.

Khan echoes this, and says a sense of community can “go a long way in being able to deal with uncertainty, loss, defeat and hopelessness.”

Get involved

Once you’ve allowed yourself to process your emotions, you may want to take action.

Federal Election 2019: Andrew Scheer full concession speech
Federal Election 2019: Andrew Scheer full concession speech

If you’re unhappy with the election outcome, you can get involved in local political groups or grassroots organizations to spark change.

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“What can you do on an individual or day-to-day level to contribute to the change that you want to see at the macro-level?” Khan says.

Picking a cause you care about can help ease feelings of powerlessness, Söchting adds.

“It’s always healthy to confront and to engage,” Söchting says.

“The worst is probably just to become detached and increasingly hopeless and isolated.”

— With a file from Amanda Connolly 

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca