Wherever you are on the political spectrum—whether you’re outraged at the election of Donald Trump, disturbed by images of protesters in cities across the nation, or just sick of the whole topic—you probably have a campaign hangover right now. Emotions are raw, nerves are frayed. And it’s easier than ever to fall short on that whole “love thy neighbor” thing. (Not just me, right?)
While anger is a powerful force that can be transformative and empowering, when you cross the line into what could be called righteous anger or hatred, it’s time to pump the brakes—and do some serious self-reflection, says Meredith Bergman, MD, a New York City-based holistic psychiatrist who incorporates Eastern and Western medicine into her practice.
“Hate poisons our own bodies and our own minds.”
“It’s absurd because hate poisons our own bodies and our own minds,” she says. “In Buddhism there’s a great quote: ‘Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.'”
Science backs this up, too. Doctors say a burst of cortisol (the stress hormone) from negative emotions can trigger inflammation in the body, which is linked to health problems like cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders—and, according to lot of oversharers on Twitter right now, can even make your IBS go crazy.
Dr. Bergman—whose prescriptions to her patients often include exercise, yoga, and meditation along with more traditional mental health treatment—gave us some suggestions for dealing with intense post-election emotions so that you can heal and, ultimately, be ready to take meaningful action.
Read on for Dr. Bergman’s suggestions for staying woke without getting stuck in a negative, unhealthy place.
Accept your anger; it’s healthy
“I think we all feel a little disoriented; the world is pretty crazy right now. How do you remain sane in an insane world?” Dr. Bergman says. “We are angry, and that is completely normal—for instance, when we see injustice around us. We just need to use this anger effectively, efficiently, and in a way that doesn’t hurt ourselves. I don’t think people really know yet how to do that. So the best thing is to observe the feeling by meditating on the emotion and not taking immediate, impulsive action. A lot can be learned from tolerating a feeling and having some patience.”
Lean on your loved ones
“Frustration is a basic fact of life; it’s how we respond to it that’s important,” Dr. Bergman says. “It’s normal to get upset and frustrated and sad, and I’ve found that some Buddhist principles really help get people back on their feet.” (Since one of the foundational principles of Buddhism is “life is suffering,” she says, the religion has some pretty darn good coping strategies.)
One way is to connect with your family and your community, whether it’s your urban tribe, your fitness buddies, or your standing phone date with Mom (as much as you may hate to admit it, she’s got some wisdom to share) every day.
Put a little (self) love in your heart
Another Buddhist quote: “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” Dr. Bergman says when you’re starting to feel hate in your heart, it’s time to take better care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. “We can meditate, we can exercise, we can be with our friends and family, we can try to take better care of ourselves. We can practice compassion and loving kindness for all beings,” she says.
“We all have to get our footing right now, not let this anger control our actions or negativity take us hostage. Then we can respond as our highest self.”
Make sure you’re doing the self-care basics: Getting good sleep and eating nutritious foods can be transformative when you’re dealing with serious issues. And, bonus: This message from Gabrielle Bernstein might help put things in perspective.