How to protect your mental health following the UK election result

We asked some experts how you can practice self-care when the political discourse is triggering and overwhelming.

by Roisin Lanigan
13 December 2019, 12:00pm

Photography Lola and Pani

In the words of our Lord and Saviour Jasmine Masters, “Well, it’s over.” The election is finished. So what now? Well, there are a number of ways we can continue to fight for a fairer future, but we also need to think about ourselves. During the past month, our timelines have been full of tribalism, in-fighting, and resignation, and today is no exception. For many of us -- especially those directly affected by Tory policies and austerity cuts, and anyone who relies on the NHS to stay alive -- the result this morning will be particularly hard to swallow. If you're struggling with your mental health, today can seem especially frightening. Be ready to go at it again and fight another day. But first, take a moment to check in with yourself. Take a break from the cacophony of internet discourse and prepare yourself to channel Jez Corbyn.

Here, we asked some mental health professionals for their advice on how to get through this particularly grim Friday the 13th. Be safe out there.

Practise simple self-care

Many have campaigned and volunteered over the last few weeks. Solidarity is so important when getting through difficult times, but we should also recognise that compassion starts with ourselves. Without recharging our own batteries, we’re unable to offer our help to others who need it. “Regardless of the election result, we should set our own agenda that prioritises taking care of our psychological health,” says Dr William Van Gordon, Associate Professor in Contemplative Psychology at the University of Derby. “There are many evidence-based techniques that can be useful in this respect, ranging from maintaining a regular exercise routine to practising mindfulness or yoga. However, for people who feel that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the election, in the first instance I suggest simply taking some time to stop and breathe.” Don't give in in to your outrage and sense of injustice. “This is really about keeping things in perspective, understanding that there are always two sides to every story, and making sure we occupy our time with life-enriching and restorative activities,” he adds.

Get off the TL

Though Twitter can provide comfort and humour, time away from the online political discourse can also be beneficial. Psychotherapist Noel McDermott suggests removing ourselves from the situation entirely, at least for a little while. “One of the best things to deal with stress and low mood is to go have some fun with your friends,” he says. Okay, but what if your friends are all too involved in political discourse for that to be a respite? Or worse, what if your friends are Tories! Noel recommends meditation -- helpful! -- but, similarly to Dr William, also taking some time out from the noise to look at the big picture. “We can’t avoid it, to be honest,” Noel explains. “We can, however, minimise its impact and reduce our consumption. The trick is to be thoughtful about how and what you consume, don’t spend too much of your time online, balance it with other activities that you enjoy and are not triggering this discourse." Does Twitter cause you stress? "If the answer is yes then stop! Try turning off your notifications and make a thoughtful decision as to when and how you go online.”

Acceptance is hard, but will help

A lot of us are feeling dejected, disappointed and probably want to hide away from it all and pretend it’s not happening and the world is still a good, reasonable, rational place. But while turning off our phone and taking a break from the noise in the short term, in the long term, the only way to foster mental resilience is to face the issue head-on and accept it. “If the election doesn’t go your way, then your reaction might range from outrage and dread to resignation and depression,” explains mindfulness teacher and author Neil Seligman. “Resisting something which is true -- like an election wipe-out -- only leads to more suffering in the end. Start by reminding yourself that your track record for getting through tough days is 100% to date -- you will also get through this one. Practising acceptance of change and the uncertain future is the next step. Remember that resistance to the inevitable sets you up to waste your energy and directs you towards unhappiness and resentment. Your own acceptance of the shifting sands will have its own rhythm, so be gentle with yourself as you adjust, and notice if you are sinking into denial or resistance.”

mental health