This past week has been especially hard on our country. Whether or not you were happy with the results of the election, I think that we can all agree that it has been a time of great emotional turbulence.
For many, it is a time of grief. Indeed, internet searches on the topic "stages of grief" have gone up exponentially in the last few days, as you can see from this graph:
If you're not familiar with the five stages of grief, these are a way of understanding the emotional experiences that people have during loss. They were originally described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, during her studies of death and dying. They include:
- Denial - This phase is dominated by shock and disbelief: ("This isn't happening!")
- Anger - This phase is dominated by resistance and blame ("This shouldn't have happened!")
- Bargaining - This phase is dominated by the hope that there is an alternative outcome. ("How can I change this?")
- Depression - This phase is dominated by resignation, regret, and hopelessness. ("I can't do anything about this.")
- Acceptance - This phase is focused on coming to terms with the situation and finding ways to cope with it. ("This is what is so, and I will make the best of it.")
It is important to note that not everyone moves through all these stages, and that an individual may go back and forth between stages during their grief journey.
Why is this important?
If you are struggling with the election outcome, it is important to remember that grief is linked to a variety of symptoms and healing is a process. Resisting or rushing that healing process can be damaging to your well-being.
If someone you care about is struggling, denying or dismissing their reactions will only prolong their grief.
Here are a few suggestions to beef up your self-care during times of grief:
1) Notice your experience and allow it to be what it is without judgement. Mindfulness skills can be powerful tools for healing during grieving because they allow us to be with what is "so" in a way that reduces suffering. If you have never practiced mindfulness, a good place to start is a technique called breath awareness. This short introductory exercise is included in my free wellness toolkit.
2) Allow yourself time out. One of the challenges of our current situation, is that there are many opportunities to re-activate grief. If social media, news reports, or counterproductive conversations are aggravating your symptoms, limit your exposures, especially right now.
3) Do more of what brings you joy. While it is important not to resist your reactions and feelings, you don't have to dwell in them. Once you notice them, you can choose to redirect your attention to something that elevates your mindset. Distract yourself with a funny movie or music that makes you happy. Connect to your body in a healthy way by taking a walk, dancing, or practicing a mind-body technique like yoga or tai chi. Spend time with people that give you space to be where you are. If you don't have a self-care kit, consider making one that you can access easily whenever you need it.
4) Avoid negative coping. There are many unhealthy ways that we can "numb" ourselves to uncomfortable feelings. If you have a tendency to resort to emotional eating or to use or abuse substances, acknowledge this and get support. When you are vulnerable, it is important to take yourself out of situations where you will be tempted to make unhealthy choices. Get support and work on developing healthy alternatives.
5) Practice forgiveness. Anger and resentment are harmful to your well-being, and finding ways to let them go will help you move forward. Many spiritual traditions have teachings and rituals that encourage forgiveness. This is a great time to plug into those. If you do not have a connection with a spiritual tradition or want additional tools, you might investigate the mindfulness practice of lovingkindness, or the ancient Hawaiian forgiveness process known as ho'oponopono. Ho'oponopono is a four step process that accesses the power of repentance (I'm sorry"), forgiveness ("Please forgive me"), gratitude ("thank you") and love ("I love you")
What about you? How have you supported yourself in the midst of grief? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below.
If you would like to discuss ways that I can help you reduce stress, increase vitality, and strengthen your self-care strategies, please be in touch.