Post Election Stress Response


It has been just over week since the election, and our reactions are many and varied. That’s to be expected – our stress and distress reactions are as individual as we are.

On Wednesday, the Reverend Julie Taylor, president of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry, held a webinar called “Managing the Post-Election Stress Response.” I’d like to share a few of Rev. Taylor’s points with you:

–   As Victor Frankl said, “An abnormal response to an abnormal situation is normal.” In other words, this wasn’t just another election, because the results aren’t just about different ideologies; rather, the results have the very real potential to put people’s lives in danger (according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, between November 9th and 14th, there were 437 distinct acts of hate crimes, and the number continues to rise, including one two days ago in Patchogue). It is absolutely reasonable to have had and still be having a strong reaction to it.

–   Reactions may come in different forms: cognitive/mental (confusion, fuzziness, etc.); physical (headaches, GI distress, etc.); behavioral (sleeping too much/too little, vices, etc.); emotional (mood swings, sadness, anxiety, etc.); and spiritual (questioning faith, changes in spiritual practice, etc.).

–   In the video, Rev. Taylor talks about Distress versus Dysfunction – Distress can last 3 to 4 weeks and might temporarily impair you; it moves into Dysfunction when it lasts too long or the thoughts/physical reactions are extreme.

IMPORTANT: If you wonder if your reaction is extreme, see a medical/mental health professional now. Please don’t delay.

–   The best advice for taking care of yourself and getting through the distress is not to add anything new to your routine, but to lean into action you already know work for you. If you’re a knitter, pick up the needles. If you’re a jogger, tie on those running shoes. Make a list of things that help you – mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and behaviorally. For me, the list includes going to movies, my daily hymn-singing practice, cooking a well-balanced meal, talking to my spiritual director, reading some fiction, and walking.

I encourage you to watch the entire video – it’s about 40 minutes long:

It is also good to want to do something, and I will encourage you to act yourself and bring your ideas for congregational action. The good news, if I can frame it that way, is that the issues we face are nothing new and there are dozens of amazing organizations, including the UUA’s own Standing on the Side of Love, who have the structure to mobilize. And other groups, like Pantsuit Nation, are forming and preparing to step up as well. We know what the work is – as we move out of our distress response, we must do it.

If you have questions about this or just want to talk, please contact me. And please take care of yourself. And then let’s suit up and answer the call of love.

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Kimberley