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How to Calm Post-Election Jitters

Like a journey without end, the presidential campaign of 2000 refuses to quit...leaving weary voters frustrated, fearful and longing for closure. Dr. Eric Hollander tells us how to cope with the unexpected and how to calm post-election jitters.

Although we all complain about some aspects of the government, we've become accustomed to its working like clockwork. This time, after what felt like an interminable campaign, we voted and rather than finding out who the president-elect was by bedtime, we were met with conflicting reports and then disturbing interlude that promises to be precedent setting. Dr. Hollander will explain how an interruption in the routine can sometimes feel like a total loss of control and how, by exercising a few common-sense techniques, we can restore our individual balance, maybe even enough to sit back and watch our democracy at work.

This election is one for the books. It's history in the making. We live in a world where we've become accustomed to voting and knowing the results before bedtime. This time we must brace ourselves for something different.

Since we identify with our candidates and our egos become involved with their success, we should expect to experience some mood shifts as election results shift and change (witness feelings on election night), but not knowing the outcome, needn't translate into feelings of fear or loss of control.

There is a positive twist to our discomfort: the knowledge that we live in a country that was designed to function under just these circumstances. By following a few simple routines, we empower ourselves to sit back and watch democracy in motion.

Dr. Eric Hollander is professor of psychiatry and director of clinical psychopharmacology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He is also director of the compulsive, impulsive and anxiety disorders program and clinical director of the Seaver Center for Autism Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai.

Interview with Dr. Hollander

During any period of uncertainty and doubt, there is an exaggerated sense of future harm. But in truth we have little to fear since our governmental institutions are formed to handle just this kind of contingency. Nevertheless, we have been trained to vote and to expect to celebrate or mourn with our candidates within hours of the polls' closing. So it's natural to experience anxiety when there's uncertainty and doubt surrounding the outcome of the election. And in this case, we might have to wait a considerable time.

Some people have a sense that if things are not tightly in control, they are completely out of control. It is not true in this case. This country is so well organized that we have the luxury of seeing things slip a bit and we're still very much in control.

Dr. Hollander's Advice


When dealing with anxiety it's sometimes helpful to determine whether we're in a sprint or a marathon. This looks like a marathon so let's take it calm and steady.


This is an unprecedented situation, it's understandable to feel out of kilter but nothing's out of control.


Staying awake to follow every rumor and every nuance can be exhausting. Stick to regular eating and sleeping cycles and work off post-election stress with exercise.


The uncertainty is finite, it won't go on forever.


We're seeing democracy in action. Our government is set up to handle situations like this one.

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