Election Anxiety: Nov. 4th Is Here! Now What?

12/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Mar 17, 2015

Today the vigil begins. The tension is building and just about everyone can feel it. Many are saying this is the most important election in decades.

The combination of a world at war economically, politically and on fields of combat has many people angry, fearful and demanding of change. The Democrats are campaigning on a theme of Change and the Republicans are sounding a similar call.

So what's up? If you are one of those who are angry, what should you do if the other side wins?

You may have read my last couple of posts on the subject offering thoughts about freedom, focus, and choice along with some "advice" from Abraham Lincoln.

Now it's time to make this personal.

What can you do if wind up on the losing side of this election? What if you are one of those volunteers who campaigned mightily, donated significantly, and worked diligently to support the kind of change you support, perhaps even demand?

Once again, as Sidney J. Harris wrote so many years ago: "If you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of the problem."

You might be tempted to strike back saying something about how you gave everything you could to get your team elected. If that's true, and your team still lost, then here's some sobering thought: perhaps you didn't give enough!

I know, this must sound insane. However, stick with me for another moment or two.

An early mentor of mine counseled "Give until it helps" as a twist on the old cliché of "Give until it hurts." Perhaps you have already given so much that it hurts. If so, what can you do that will help, that will make a difference, even a micro difference? Perhaps you can't solve world hunger, but could you help someone who is hungry or homeless?

If you find yourself angry, ask yourself, "Why am I angry?" I often ask people I am working with if they have ever gotten angry over something they didn't care about. Kind of a trick question if you're not careful.

If you don't care, you do not care. As in, you don't care. However, if you find yourself angry, then clearly you do care. A lot. So what's the deal with the anger?

Anger is an expression of caring along with frustration that things aren't working out the way you would like. Another way of saying this is that anger is an ineffective expression of caring. I know -- thanks a lot!

So if you blend anger and caring with the bit about being part of the solution or part of the problem, you may wind up with something like "What one man can do," a line from an old John Denver song about Buckminster Fuller.

If you were actively involved in this campaign, I suspect it is because you care and care deeply. If you look more deeply under the party or persons you supported, I'll bet you will find some very practical areas of focus, things your care about deeply.

The odd thing is that both Republicans and Democrats are alike in at least one area: both parties encourage active involvement. The Republican mantra is that private citizens can make a difference better than government intervention. The Democrats argue that we have a larger social responsibility and yet they also encourage private citizens to get involved in their local communities.

So what is it that you care about? Homelessness? World Peace? Hunger? Or any of a hundred different issues? Can you make a difference in homelessenss, world peace, global warming, or any of the other pressing issues of our current situation?

Of course you can. Even if your side lost!

If the homeless are a concern of yours, what are you doing to engage with the problem? Many will gladly throw money at the problem, and that's quite different from working with the homeless. The same can be said for the hungry.

Could you imagine getting personally involved by befriending a homeless person or family?

What could you do at a very personal and individual level to impact global warming?

The key here is active involvement. If you are disappointed, angry or otherwise upset about the outcome of the election, you can still do something that has meaning and value. You won't be able to undo the election results in terms of who is in office; however, you can do something about what is important to you.

One of the best and most important things you can do is get directly involved in making a difference about one or more of the issues you care about. And I don't mean donating money (although that can't hurt); and I don't mean talking to others about how concerned you are (and that might help depending on how you frame the conversation). I do mean doing something directly, actually getting your hands dirty as the saying goes.

If you do get involved, and enough of us get involved, we can make a difference. One small piece of the puzzle at a time. Sure, one step won't change the entire world, but it still takes all the steps it takes to make the change happen. If you don't take your step, how will anything ever improve? Mobilize your anger into an active demonstration of caring.

After all, if you aren't part of the solution, you are part of perpetuating the problem!

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)