As we engage in national and regional elections, it is a period that is often fraught with tensions and emotional investment in the candidates of our choice. Civic engagement is very good but sometimes it can become toxic for our emotional well-being. It is important to learn how to reduce stress, and cope with tensions, conflicts, wins, losses etc. Here are 10 simple and basic steps that should serve us well along this journey toward protecting our emotional well-being in this electoral season:
- Do Your best during campaigns and the election: Regret that you could have done more is a common source of emotional turmoil during and after elections. If you believe in your candidate, give it your best shot.
- Respect the choice of others: Everyone is entitled to their choice, and we must respect that we may have differences in our choices. This is the beauty of democracy. We would like others to respect our choice and trust that we know what we are doing. In a similar vein, we should trust others to also hold their choices, even if they are at variance with ours.
- Be civil and engage decently: There is no need to get hot under the collar when people hold divergent opinions from yours and those of your candidate. Control your irritation and be civil and be guided by the basic tenets of decency. You may be able to win them over or at the very least, disagree without rancour.
- Avoid conflict and confrontations: Avoid and stay away from people, groups, or situations where conflict and confrontations are the norms. It is not healthy for your emotional peace of mind. Some people get really angry and upset and their entire day is ruined because of an altercation that was totally unnecessary.
- The majority will have their way: It is a tenet of democracy that the majority will have their way, after every candidate and their supporters have had their say. Unfortunately, it may not be in favour of you or your candidate, and some frustration and bitterness may ensue. Accept the outcome with equanimity and work harder the next time.
- Let go of past frustrations, hurt, and anger: It never helps to hold on to grudges and hurts….from those who disappointed you during the elections with their stance or actions/inactions. Anger poisons our system and spreads bile and bitterness which sucks up any joy and happiness from our present life and situation. Let go of such anger and frustrations and discard them. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t dwell on the negative emotions….otherwise, you will be stuck in the rut and will not make progress.
- Avoid drug abuse: There is a strong temptation, especially among youth, to take drugs for recreational purposes; or drink alcohol heavily when frustrated or disappointed. This is dangerous and should be resisted. In any case, when you recover from the intoxication, the disappointment and frustrations will be patiently waiting for you. And once addiction sets in, it is a difficult habit to break free from.
- Failure is a normal part of life: Learning to deal with failure and frustrations helps us to build our resilience. Every important phase of life is achieved after repeated failures…such as learning to speak, to walk and to run etc. It is the same principle of life that we need to consistently apply – including during elections. There can only be one winner for an elective position.
- Improve your emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand yourself, to recognize your emotional reactions to situations on the one hand; and to also value and understand the emotions of significant others. Even more importantly, it is the ability to deploy this understanding of self and of others, to practical use, in a way that promotes the best chances of having a successful, happy, and truly worthy life. Where everyone in your sphere of influence, feels valued, understood, and respected.
- Stay humble: If you or your candidate won, do not gloat, but rather learn humility from the confidence reposed in you to represent and serve the people in that capacity. It is not because you are so supremely more intelligent or better. The majority simply preferred your candidate. Be kind to those who are resentful that they lost and who may be miserable and unhappy. There is absolutely no need to taunt and gloat in their faces. Ultimately, everyone wants a better state and country for us all.
Conclusion: This is to wish us all a peaceful, happy, and emotionally healthy election season. Refuse to be upset by the action or inactions of others and jealously protect your emotional tranquility. May our nation continue to improve and get better with all of us, working together for success.
Dr Jibril Abdulmalik
Tribune Article for the column “Your Mental Health & You”
Thursday, 2nd March 2023