HEALTH NEWS

Escape: Give Your Post-Election Brain a Rest

Written by David Mills on November 18, 2016

post election mental health

Netflix. A good book. The movie theater. A symphony. Some gardening.

Those are some of the ways people on both sides of the political aisle are trying to escape from the stress of this year’s presidential election and its emotional aftermath.

Psychology experts told Healthline there’s nothing wrong with some temporary distraction from this electoral roller coaster.

“Everyone needs an escape,” said Elaine Ducharme, Ph.D., a board-certified clinical psychologist in Connecticut. “It takes us out of this hyperaroused state.”

“A good distraction,” added Nancy Molitor, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, “is one way to deal with stress.”

Read more: How to deal with post-election stress, anger »

What are people doing?

Molitor and Ducharme said distractions can run the gamut from movies to books to exercise to sewing to art.

They’re all therapeutic as long as they have a calming effect and they aren’t getting in the way of daily tasks such as going to work, keeping up on housecleaning, or eating well.

Healthline asked readers on some of our medical condition social platforms what they are doing to distract themselves from post-election stress.

Many said they had stopped watching the news. Others had reduced their time looking at social media.

Several mentioned they have been watching programs on the more lighthearted Hallmark television channel.

A couple said they were spending more time with their grandchildren.

Others found different ways.

Kathryn S. Franklin wrote that she is re-learning to crochet.

Mike Rozell said he is playing guitar and writing songs.

On another Healthline Facebook page, Dusty Johnson-Armijo wrote, “watching my favorite shows on the DVR” and reading a James Patterson novel.

Felicia Diaz Houk said she is cleaning grout and watching every season of “The Walking Dead.”

Molitor said she herself found some escape by going to see the movie, “Arrival.”

Read more: It’s not trivial. Knowing obscure facts is good for your mental health »

Holiday movie season

Erik Davis, the managing editor of Fandango, said the movie season this November and December might be a strong one for escapism.

The current top movie at the box office is “Dr. Strange,” a fantasy film starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Davis said other pure escapism movies are now coming out, including “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “La La Land,” a throwback to the old Hollywood musical.

“There are a lot of great escape movies coming out that have a lot of inspiration and some rich messages in them,” Davis told Healthline.

He said there are also some emotional films such as “Loving,” the true story of an interracial couple in 1958 in Virginia.

He said for some people a movie that deals with issues being discussed today is a healthy way to escape.

“I think people are so numb right now that a lot of us need to feel something. I think people need that,” Davis said.

He added that if nothing else, people just need to get out of the house.

“We may need to just shake ourselves out of this thing,” he said.

Read more: The dangers of getting only one point of view »

Why escapism is good

Molitor and Ducharme said people are different so they find healthy distractions in different ways.

Some people find it alone by hiking or reading a book.

Others need interaction, so they might opt for playing cards.

“You have to know yourself,” said Molitor.

She said escaping for a few hours “diverts your brain.”

“It allows you to go to the quieter part of your brain,” said Molitor. “You’re not solving a complex problem. You are staying in the moment.”

Ducharme said a fun distraction also releases chemicals in the brain that can be soothing.

“It allows your body to normalize,” she said.

Both psychology experts said however you are able to relax, this post-election season is a good time to do it.

“There is nothing wrong with escaping from chaos,” said Ducharme.

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