12/08/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Effective Ways to Deal with the Post-Election Blues

Without a doubt this has been an historic election. Much like a primetime reality show, this election has given us good TV and for some it gave an ongoing adrenaline buzz. It's been a highly stimulating experience with daily twists and turns, intrigue, accusations, pot-shots, jabs and overall drama. All the necessary ingredients to keep people glued to their televisions. Many willingly admit that they have turned into "election addicts" - constantly checking iPhones, BlackBerrys, computers, televisions and car radios for the latest news, dramas, polls and projections. Behavioral psychologist Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., co-author of Transforming Depression; The HeartMath Solution to Feeling Overwhelmed, Sad and Stressed, says: "Now that the election is over, many people will feel the emotional drain that can follow high stimulus events. Some will feel fatigued, disappointed, angry, worried or depressed. Some will feel celebratory at first but then experience a lack and emptiness." So how can someone recover from the post-election blues?

For most people, elections can trigger a range of feelings from blame and frustration to judgment and anger. If these emotions are not resolved they can leave people with a subtle edginess or a funky or blue feeling, even at a subconscious level. Your body responds biochemically to every emotion you experience. Factor in the length of time this election went on and the wide range of emotions you experienced during that time and you can see how the emotional accumulation can add up and throw your system out of balance.

"Whether your candidate won or lost this election, you will have to settle back into your normal routine minus the emotional stimulation of the election," says Dr. Rozman. "People don't realize that emotional stimulation is a form of energy that accumulates. When we overindulge or get overly preoccupied with anything, it affects our balance mentally, emotionally and physically."

Psychology experts agree it's not uncommon, when we have a highly stimulating event that consumes our thoughts and emotional energy, that there would be a period of time that follows that can leave you feeling a kind of hole in your emotional fabric. You've invested so much energy into something and now it's over. Getting back to normal can be easy for some and for others it can feel like a let down. But with the financial crisis going on, for many there isn't a normal to go back to yet.

Dr. Rozman adds, "Without the stimulating energy that the election has provided, many are left with the stark reality of uncertainty about the future, a declining economy, declining job markets, increases in living expenses, etcetera, so the emotional low could feel even lower."

"When a big crisis happens such as the current economic situation that's affected so many, our stress tolerance baseline depletes from initial shock and emotional pain." says Doc Childre, founder of the HeartMath System and author of a dozen books, including The HeartMath Solution, From Chaos to Coherence, and Transforming Stress: The HeartMath Solution for Relieving Worry, Fatigue, and Tension. "This is followed by overwhelm which diminishes our capacity to cope, yet it is understandable why we feel the way we do. However, as we generate continuous amped up anger, anxiety and fear through our mental and emotional system, these feelings release stress neurotransmitters and hormones like cortisol and adrenalin in excess through our body. The long-play version of this can cause an array of physical health symptoms, along with potential mental and emotional imbalances."

What to Watch For and What You Can Do

People have to take some action to regain balance and reset their system, experts say. Here are some things to be on the look out for and actions you can take that will help you reset your inner balance:

* The best way to manage anxiety and stress is to deal with it the very moment you feel it come up. Millions of Americans unsuccessfully use the binge-and-purge approach when it comes to stress. They stress out all day, believing that they can wait until later to recover when they go to an evening yoga class, go to the gym or chill out when they take the weekend off. Unfortunately, when we put off going for our own inner balance our bodies have already activated the stress response and it's our health that suffers.

* Watch for mental musing. This can go a long way in helping you to minimize your stress levels. Pay attention to the mental rehashing that can follow a highly charged event or conversation, especially following the elections. Emotionally reviewing and rehashing the things that irritated you only adds to your stress level. HeartMath's research has shown that the very act of thinking about an unpleasant or disturbing incident or issue triggers an emotional response which then triggers a chain of physiological reactions. In fact, just one 5-minute episode of anger can depress the immune system for up to 6 hours. Musing about things that made you angry, frustrated, irritated or worried can throw off your autonomic nervous system balance, create incoherent heart rhythms and negatively affect your hormonal and immune system balance.

* Replace negative feelings that drain you with positive emotions that help recharge your energy. Practice replacing feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, anxiety and worry with compassion and care for yourself and others. HeartMath research shows that compassionate prayer, meditation, and replacing negative attitudes with feelings with compassion and care can help restabilize and balance your system. It's important to restabilize as soon as you can because as you hold onto negative emotions over a period of time it can put your health at risk.

* Redirect the emotional energy you put into the election into helping others. Volunteering helps to rekindle the positive emotions of appreciation, care, compassion and kindness that not only feel better but also bring the hormonal and immune systems into balance.

Here's a simple, scientifically proven technique from HeartMath that can help you shift your emotions and rebalance your system.

Attitude Breathing®

1. Focus on the heart to help pull your energy and attention out of the mind. Take a slow breath in and imagine the air is flowing in through the area of the heart. Then release your breath slowly. As you breathe out, focus on your solar plexus (near the stomach), as this helps with grounding your energies.

2. Practice breathing in through the heart and out through the solar plexus for 30 seconds or more to help anchor your energy and attention there.

3. Next, select a positive feeling or attitude (try appreciation, for example) to breathe in and out through that area for another 30 seconds (or more).

4. Select attitudes that will help offset the negative emotion or imbalance. Breathe gently and deeply with the intent of shifting to the feeling of that healthy attitude. For example, breathe in and out with the attitude of ease. You can also breathe two attitudes, if you'd like. For example, you can breathe in an attitude of ease and breathe out an attitude of care, or you can breathe in an attitude of balance and breathe out an attitude of appreciation.

Practice Attitude Breathing anytime during the day, and especially first thing in the morning. Choose a healthy attitude that you want to carry with you. Take a minute throughout your day to refresh that feeling and attitude. This is the key step to getting and staying in balance. Many people find that when they experience positive feelings like care, love or appreciation while breathing through the heart area, they immediately feel better and have more mental clarity. Holding a positive feeling makes it easier to stay in balance for longer periods of time, so that it becomes easier to remain calm and prevent energy drain even in tough times.


Contact Deborah Rozman or Doc Childre at info@heartmath.com.

HeartMath is a cutting-edge performance company providing a range of unique services, products, and technology to improve health and well-being, while dramatically reducing stress and boosting performance and productivity. Their emWave Personal Stress Reliever was the first recipient of the Award for Distinction and Innovation from the American Institute of Stress. HeartMath clinical studies have demonstrated the critical link between emotions, heart function, and cognitive performance. Their work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as American Journal of Cardiology, Stress Medicine, and Preventive Cardiology. HeartMath's clients include Duke Medicine, Stanford Business School, Mayo Health System and Blue Cross Blue Shield.