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Election Worries? How to Deal With Defeat

By Sara Butler

Election Stress

As your dad probably liked to often remind you, life isn’t fair. Rock songs have been written about how you can’t always get what you want, and you can hear about plenty of heartbreak on country radio. Yes, there are reminders everywhere that one way or another, you’re bound to be disappointed at some point in your life and probably quite often.

The hard truth is that no matter how great life can be, it’s inevitable that you’ll deal with disappointment and even defeat. Loss, setbacks, trauma, and failures are simply something you must learn to deal with and move on from. Going into November elections, learning how to cope with defeat and disappointment is as important as ever. At least one side is always going to lose and there will be a four-year for another chance to join the winning team.

Learning how to effectively cope with losing is a great skill to have as you navigate the obstacle course called life. Here’s what you need to know to help you keep going as you deal with life’s big and little disappointments.

What Does It Mean to Cope?

Coping is a common concept, but to build coping skills, it’s critical to define what it means to cope and what, specifically, needs to be “coped.” or dealt with. According to the American Psychological Association, coping is the behavior process people use to deal with internal and external demands in response to situations that are seen as threats.

Threats? Well, it’s not as serious as it sounds. Threats are, of course, situations in which you feel you may be in danger, but it doesn’t necessarily mean physical stress. Your identity and worldview can feel threatened while your life is safe and sound. Threats can be something as common as the loss of a loved one or simply everyday stressors such as driving in rush hour traffic. The bottom line is you need coping mechanisms for it all -- including defeat.

Coping Skills for Defeat

There are several strategies you can use to help cope with feelings of defeat, however, they manifest in your life. You can:

  • Feel it - Go ahead, take a minute to wallow. Let the weight of what is going on in your life that is disappointing sink in. Find words to express how you’re feeling, and honor how you’re feeling -- it’s not wrong.
  • Do a reality check - OK, so you’re feeling disappointed and defeated, now you need to sit back and take stock. Is what is going on really that bad? Humans tend to be a bit dramatic; although feelings are real, your thoughts may betray you. Look objectively at what is happening and try to reduce any negative self-talk going on inside your head.
  • Make a choice - You have a choice in how you react to disappointing or defeating news. Head off your feelings of disappointment or defeat before they turn into anger, bitterness, resentment, and irritation.
  • Stop the stinkin’ thinkin’ - You shouldn’t stew in negativity. Just as with any other emotion you experience, feelings of disappointment and defeat occur on a spectrum. The longer you allow yourself to stew, the higher the chance that you become mired in feeling discouraged and eventually depressed. Turn feelings of disappointment into feelings of determination to help restore your inner peace.
  • Create boundaries - When big things happen in the world, it’s easy to get sucked into others’ feelings of disappointment and defeat. While it’s important to share and feel heard with others who see the world like you, you have to limit how much you let other people drag you into their disappointment too. When you’re trying to process your own emotions about something, dealing with others can be too much and make it more difficult for you.
  • Stay positive - Focusing on bad news can cause you to lose sight of what is going right in the world. It’s not your fault, your brain is wired to focus on the negative things going on in your life as part of its self-preservation mode (remember -- threats?), but you can rewire your brain to look on the bright side. List everything going right in your life and focus on those things.

Yes, life never goes exactly how you want it to, but you don’t have to be bogged down by negative emotions and make yourself even more miserable. Feel your feelings but work to overcome them. And if you’re not happy with what is going on in the world around, then be a positive force for change to make it better. You got this!

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