How To Manage Post-Election Stress

by David Gersten, M.D. on 11/09/16

It's over! Most people are either elated or in great despair. Had Hillary Clinton won, there would also have been millions who are feeling elated and millions who feel great despair. It's time to let go....Let go...Many of us have been glued to our TV and computer for the better part of a year, watching this play out. Many of us, at least on Facebook, are devastated. Many continue to point out the unfairness of our system and to blame the incompetence or danger of the candidate that wasn't "theirs." So, take a few deep breaths. It's time to come together as one nation.

If you're like me, a tremendous amount of mental energy went into this campaign. When the results came in last night, I let myself observe how much my mind had engaged in the election. I have let my mind stop grasping, seeking, wondering, questioning. I've closed my eyes, meditated, and returned my focus to the Present Moment. That is all that we have after all. We are a stressed nation. Stress is physical and mental/emotional and involves a chronically revved up sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight). We need to shift into parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) physiology, which is associated with a sense of calm and peace, rest and tranquility. What turns on the PNS? Rest, meditation, walks in nature, yoga, bubble baths. That's the feeling, and it is as physical as it is mental.

Our adrenals respond to stress through the release of cortisol, our main stress hormone.  When someone bangs on your door or your boss yells at you, the adrenals release cortisol. With chronic stress, the adrenals lose the ability to release cortisol in a normal fashion. An adrenal stress test (saliva) is one of my baseline tests. There are 4 collections over the course of a day. In early adrenal stress, morning cortisol levels drop (so we wake up fatigued), mid-afternoon cortisol drops (so we rush for coffee and a candybar around 2:30 pm) and late evening cortisol rises (leading to trouble falling asleep). Two key nutrients for handling stress are multiple B vitamins and vitamin C. 

In addition, the science of earthing shows that barefoot contact with the Earth and its bioelectrical field helps us deal with stress. To test this out, spend 30 minutes walking barefoot on the beach, sand, grass, or a dirt path. Before you start that short walk, make a mental note of your stress and pain levels on a zero to 10 scale. After the walk (or just sitting barefoot in your backyard), check again and see how stress and pain score for you.

If you are feeling anxious, you may want to increase your brain's GABA levels. GABA is our most-calming neurotransmitter.  You can do that by supplementing with the amino acids GABA (up to 3 grams a day),  taurine (which acts at the GABA receptor site) and/or L-theanine, a calming neurotransmitter that acts at the GABA receptor site. This is a simple step. Don't forget to exercise, and if you've gotten out of that habit, it's time to resume.

Give your body and mind a break. Stop watching the post-election reviews, which will be endless. Think about people, places, and things to do that inspire you. Turn on your favorite music. Dance, if you feel so moved. Use this opportunity as a wake-up call for whatever you need to bring into your life and whatever you need to let go of.

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